Reasoning and concurrent timing: a study of the mechanisms underlying the effect of emotion on reasoning

Cogn Emot. 2019 Aug;33(5):1020-1030. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2018.1535427. Epub 2018 Oct 23.


Negative emotions typically have an adverse effect on reasoning, especially analytic or logical reasoning. This effect can be explained using an attentional framework in which emotion detracts limited-capacity cognitive resources which are required for reasoning. Another possibility is that the effect of emotion on reasoning is mediated by arousal, as previous research has shown that physiological arousal can be associated with decreased reasoning performance. In this research, we used a dual-task paradigm combining a syllogistic reasoning task and a time production task. Prospective timing allows to disentangle the effects of attention and arousal: time productions should lengthen if emotion takes up cognitive resources that are therefore not available for timing, whereas time productions should shorten if emotional reasoning results from increased arousal. Results from two experiments confirm the adverse impact of emotion on logical reasoning performance. Reasoning about emotional contents led to lengthened time productions, which suggests that the capture of limited cognitive resources is the main factor accounting for the adverse effect of emotion on reasoning and not arousal.

Keywords: Reasoning; arousal; attention; dual-task paradigm; emotion; time perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult