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The effect of affect on expectancies and attitudes

James Edward Sexton, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Moods and emotions can bias our memories of the past as well as our expectations for the future. What we believe is likely to happen in the future can further influence our behavior today. To demonstrate this, in experiment one, people were placed in a sad or angry mood, and then asked to rate how likely different events were to occur in the future. Events framed such that circumstances were the cause were seen as more likely to sad participants, while angry participants found events more likely when people (either themselves or another) were the cause of the event. In experiment two, the influence of moods on present behavior was demonstrated. People in sad or angry moods were presented with the opportunity to participate in programs that could help themselves or another. Sad people had more positive attitudes towards the programs when it was emphasized how much the program could help, thus they were more persuaded by circumstantial frames. Angry people had more positive attitudes towards programs that emphasized how much they, themselves, could help, thus they were more persuaded by human agency frames. Sad people were not persuaded when they, themselves, were portrayed as being the active agent for change. Likewise, angry people were not persuaded to help when the program, itself, was portrayed as the agent of change. This research likely has practical application in helping sad and angry people help others or themselves in counseling environments.

Subject Area

Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Sexton, James Edward, "The effect of affect on expectancies and attitudes" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9950210.