Emotion and intuition

Psychol Sci. 2003 Sep;14(5):416-21. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.01456.


We investigated effects of emotional states on the ability to make intuitive judgments about the semantic coherence of word triads. Participants were presented word triads, consisting of three clue words that either were weakly associated with a common fourth concept (coherent triads) or had no common associate (incoherent triads). In Experiment 1, participants in a neutral mood discriminated coherent and incoherent triads reliably better than chance level even if they did not consciously retrieve the solution word. In Experiment 2, the induction of a positive mood reliably improved intuitive coherence judgments, whereas participants in a negative mood performed at chance level. We conclude that positive mood potentiates spread of activation to weak or remote associates in memory, thereby improving intuitive coherence judgments. By contrast, negative mood appears to restrict spread of activation to close associates and dominant word meanings, thus impairing intuitive coherence judgments.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intuition*
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Paired-Associate Learning*
  • Problem Solving
  • Semantics*