The affective control of thought: malleable, not fixed

Psychol Rev. 2014 Oct;121(4):600-18. doi: 10.1037/a0037669.


Despite decades of research demonstrating a dedicated link between positive and negative affect and specific cognitive processes, not all research is consistent with this view. We present a new overarching theoretical account as an alternative-one that can simultaneously account for prior findings, generate new predictions, and encompass a wide range of phenomena. According to our proposed affect-as-cognitive-feedback account, affective reactions confer value on accessible information processing strategies (e.g., global vs. local processing) and other responses, goals, concepts, and thoughts that happen to be accessible at the time. This view underscores that the relationship between affect and cognition is not fixed but, instead, is highly malleable. That is, the relationship between affect and cognitive processing can be altered, and often reversed, by varying the mental context in which it is experienced. We present evidence that supports this account, along with implications for specific affective states and other subjective experiences. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Thinking / physiology*