Special Session Summary the Dual Role of Affect in Information Processing and Decision Making

Yiorgos A. Bakamitsos, Dartmouth College
[ to cite ]:
Yiorgos A. Bakamitsos (2001) ,"Special Session Summary the Dual Role of Affect in Information Processing and Decision Making", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 256.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 256



Yiorgos A. Bakamitsos, Dartmouth College

Researchers in both psychology and marketing have long been interested in the effect that affect has on the ability to process information and make decisions. Two streams of literature have evolved independently in an attempt to identify different ways in which affect can affect information processing and consumer behavior. One stream of research postulates that affect can be used as a cue that people may use in rendering judgments (e.g. Schwarz and Clore, 1988; Pham, 1998). The second stream of research posits that affect influences information processing by enhancing relational elaboration (e.g., Isen, Daubman and Nowicki, 1987; Lee and Sternthal, 1999).

These two streams of research seem to coexist independently, as extant literature is silent on the conditions under which these two roles of affect operate in information processing and decision making. The objective of this session was to provide an answer to the question under which conditions mood will act as a cue and under which conditions it will act as a process moderator.

The first paper by Bakamitsos set up the research problem of interest. In three studies, the dual role that positive affect plays was explained and the conditions under which positive affect adopts each role were identified. Bakamitsos’ findings indicated that consumers relied on mood as a contextual cue in rendering a judgment when the information presented to them was difficult to process. However, when participants were motivated to hold accurate beliefs, they corrected for the effect of their mood on their judgment. In the third study, the findings reported earlier were replicated and mood was also shown to serve as a process moderator. Under certain conditions positive mood facilitated relational elaboration, which in turn had a positive effect on respondents’ judgment. These findings indicate that the use of mood as a contextual cue is the least effortful way of completing an evaluation. Nevertheless, when people are in a positive mood and are presented with informatin that is easy to process and relevant to the target of the evaluation, they will incorporate this information in their judgment.

In the second paper, Keller aimed at shedding more light on the effect of affect on relational elaboration. Her research indicates that individuals in a happy mood had a greater need to feel they had control over their long-term mood (health) than individuals in a sad mood, whereas individuals in a sad mood seemed to be more concerned with managing short-term mood (anxiety) than individuals in a happy mood. This view is supported by her findings that the loss frame resulted in higher perceived control over long-term health and higher intentions to get a mammogram than the gain frame among those in a happy mood. By contrast, the gain frame produced higher intentions to get a mammogram for those in a sad mood because it evoked less anxiety than the loss frame. Together her findings indicate that contrary to the hedonic contingency model, people in a positive mood do not attend to the immediate hedonic consequences of their actions if the perceived loss is consequential. Furthermore, individuals in a sad mood may be as responsive to the hedonic consequences of their actions as individuals in a positive mood.

Finally in the third paper, Pham, Cohen and Pracejus further elaborated on the role of monitoring one’s feelings as a judgment and decision making heuristic. Challenging the widespread notion that feelings and emotions are necessarily detrimental to judgment and decision making, they argue that feelings have distinct judgmental properties. They document these properties in a series of four studies (involving over 670 participants) comparing feeling-monitoring and "cold" reason-based evaluation responses to both static and dynamic stimuli. Their findings indicate first, that even when monitored consciously, feeling responses are registered faster and are adjusted more rapidly than reason-based evaluation responses. Second, contrary to popular wisdom, respondents agree more on their feeling responses than on their reason-based-evaluation responses. Third, feeling-monitoring responses are significantly more predictive of people’s spontaneous thoughts than reason-based evaluation responses are. These results explain why affect monitoring provides a potent valuation heuristic in judgment and decision making.


Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A. & Nowicki, G. P. (1987). "Positive Affect Facilitates Creative Problem Solving," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 6, 1122-1131.

Lee, A. Y. & Sternthal, B. (1999). "The Effect of Positive Mood on Memory", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 26, No. 2, 115-127.

Pham, Michel Tuan (1998), "Representativeness, Relevance, and the Use of Feelings in Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 25 (September), 144-159.

Schwarz, N. & Clore, G. L. (1988). "How Do I Feel About It? The Informative Function of Affective States," in Fiedler, K. & Forgas, J. (Eds.) Affect, Cognition and Social Behavior, Toronto: Hogrefe, 44-62.