Individual talks: Cognitive processes in emotion

July 12th A2.11

The grapes of grudge: Economic decisions are more favorable for friends than strangers

Janna Katrin Ruessmann & Sascha Topolinski

Exploring the differences between decisions people make for themselves and decisions people make for others, has caught the attention of research only recently, showing fundamental psychological differences between these two modes of decision-making. Here, I investigate the role of envy in interpersonal decisions and how feelings of envy are affected by the social relation between decision maker and decision recipient. In Experiment 1a and 1b (total N = 235), I instructed participants to decide about unfair and hyper-fair offers in an ultimatum game either for themselves or for a client varying in social distance (for a close friend vs. a stranger). In Experiment 2 (N = 137), participants were asked to indicate how envious of a given offer addressed to a close friend vs. a stranger they felt. In Experiment 3 (N = 108), participants were instructed to indicate both, how envious of a given offer they felt, and whether they wanted to accept or reject the offer. Across these experiments the following replicable pattern surfaced: there was no impact of client identity on the acceptance rates for unfair offers. In contrast, participants systematically accepted more hyper-fair offers for themselves and their friends than for strangers. The driving mechanism of this client favoritism effect is envy participants cannot control for in their decisions. They report higher envy for distant (vs. close) client. Apparently, the relevance of a social comparison standard (a friend is more relevant than a stranger) does not always correlate positively with the amount of social-comparison based emotions.

Towards an Appraisal Theory of Mood

Mara McGuire

Treatments of mood in the philosophical and scientific literature on affect typically advance one of two positions. On the first, moods are a subtype of emotion and whatever theory is thought to best explain emotions is applied to moods. On the second, moods are thought to differ in kind, or to such a substantial degree, from emotions that no single theory can account for both; so the contemporary emotion literature is deemed largely irrelevant to explicating moods. I argue that both positions are mistaken: moods are not a subtype of emotion, but some conceptual and empirical work on emotions is relevant to understanding them. I focus on a recent account of mood elicitation developed by Muk Wong (2016), who argues that mood is a response to changes in energy levels in relation to environmental energy demands. I argue that while the need to account for mood elicitation is well taken, it cannot be understood in terms of a mechanism monitoring energy levels. A theory of mood elicitation must be able to explain the elicitation of different types of moods by different events or states of affairs. Understanding mood elicitation along a single dimension is incapable of doing this. Instead, I suggest that we draw on appraisal theories of emotion and argue for the relevance of certain dimensions of appraisal, namely, goal relevance, goal congruence and coping potential, to understanding the elicitation of moods. Bibliography: Wong, M. (2016). Towards a theory of mood function. Philosophical Psychology, 29, 179-197.

Fluency, emotion and the perception of time

Mark Rotteveel

Time perception is a psychological function that can be influenced by emotional processes and vice versa. When instructed to estimate presentation time of studied words, for instance, participants overestimated time in contrast with non-familiar or disfluent words (Witherspoon & Allan 1985). This phenomenon is associated in literature with the classic mere exposure effect; a positive preference shift with fluent stimuli. According to the misattribution hypothesis familiarity leads to perceptual fluency that leads in turn to the overestimation of time. In contrast, the neural coding efficiency’ hypothesis predicts that stimulus repetition should lead to the underestimation of time. This was found indeed in an experiment in which participants were instructed to estimate presentation time in comparison with a picture that was shown just before (Matthews, 2011) . Both results seem to contradict each other but they seem to address similar psychological processes. We manipulated therefore fluency by manipulating color and font (for this manipulation see Carr, Rotteveel & Winkielman, 2016) of neutral and emotion words in a similar experimental paradigm as used by Matthews. Our preliminary results of three experiments show that fluency and positive affect produced overestimation of time in contrast with disfluency and negative affect, but only when the words were evaluated explicitly. Additionally, we showed that repetition can indeed evoke negative affect and maybe even disfluency in particular circumstances. These results underline generally the misattribution hypothesis and will be discussed in the context of future directions for research in time perception, mere exposure and emotion.

When feeling is for seeing: the impact of emotions on visual perception

Aurélien Graton

Emotions can be seen as “mental programs” aimed at orienting actions towards goals to be reached given the specific emotion elicited. For instance, fear would motivate individuals to look for a safe place. The "feeling is for doing" (Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2006) approach summarizes this view by claiming that specific emotions trigger specific behaviors. However, the cognitive processes underlying this emotion - behavior link remain unclear. The present research aimed at filling this gap and relied on the "wishful seeing" theory (see Balcetis & Dunning, 2009) to show that emotions could shape visual preferences. "Wishful seeing" suggests that the visual perception of natural environment depends on the internal goal of a perceiver. We argued that if a specific emotion causes specific behaviors, then visual perception should be affected to detect more easily stimuli relevant to the relevant goal. A first experiment showed that inducing guilt led participants to detect with greater acuity stimuli related to reparation (i.e., the behavior associated with guilt). In a second study, ambiguous pictures were presented to participants either experiencing anger or not (control group). This images could be seen as either a weapon object (e.g., a grenade) or a neutral object (e.g., pineapple). Consistent with our hypothesis and the "wishful seeing" theory, our results showed that angry participants saw more "weapons-like" objects than control participants. Results are discussed in terms of the influences of top-down processes in the field of emotion research.

A taste of the unexpected

Lotte van Dillen, Marieke Jepma & Marret Noordewier

Expectations drive perception, such that sensations are assimilated towards them. An interesting question is how far this bias extends, and when it shifts towards surprise. In two studies, we tested this in the domain of taste perception. Taste can be considered a core affective stimulus, as it often has a clear aversive or rewarding nature, but contrary to most other affective stimuli, its intensity can be tightly controlled, lending itself well to examine how expectations and surprise shape sensory perception. We examined taste expectancies in two studies, either between or within participants, by (repeatedly) presenting high and low intensity sweet (rewarding) and sour (aversive) tastants with distinct cues. Results indeed showed that participants assimilated their taste intensity ratings to expectations (study 1) or previously learned associations (study 2). However, this effect was more pronounced when expectancies about taste intensity were assessed within a taste modality (i.e. within sweet or sour) rather than across modalities. Especially when rewarding sweetness cues were next paired with an aversive sour flavour, their influence on taste ratings was reduced and ratings more closely mimicked actual taste intensity. Together, the findings shed new light on the role of surprise in sensory perception, and the potential asymmetry in expectancy violations.