. In: Roberto C, Kawachi I Behavioral Economics and Public Health. Cambridge: Harvard University; In Press.Abstract
The growth of a robust body of research examining emotions and decision-making and an unprecedented societal focus on behavioral prevention of disease suggests that now is the time to leverage emotion science to improve health and health care. Extending the appraisal tendency framework (Lerner & Keltner, 2000), we predict how emotions may interact with situational factors to improve or degrade health-related decisions. We also discuss how policymakers can leverage emotional influences on judgment and decision-making to improve health decisions and healthcare. Our review examines four categories of judgments and thought processes of clear relevance to health decisions: risk perception, valuation and reward-seeking, interpersonal attribution, and depth of information processing. By building on prior research and theory, we illustrate ways in which a better understanding of emotion can improve judgments and choices regarding health.
. Annual review of psychology. In Press;66.Abstract
A revolution in the science of emotion has emerged in the last few decades, with the potential to create a paradigm shift in thinking about decision theories. The research reveals that emotions constitute powerful, pervasive, and predictable drivers of decision making. Across different domains, important regularities appear in the mechanisms through which emotions influence judgments and choices. The present paper organizes and analyzes what has been learned from the past 35 years of work on emotion and decision making. It also proposes an integrated model of decision making that accounts for both traditional (rational-choice theory) inputs and emotional inputs, synthesizing scientific findings to date.
Abstract Hundreds of studies have examined the “sadder-but-wiser” hypothesis—that sad people make wiser decisions—and most find support for it. However, such studies typically examined judgments and decisions in domains without precisely quantifiable, normative standards of “wisdom.” Moreover, virtually no tests of the hypothesis examined financial decisions, arguably the most frequent and consequential decisions people make. To address these gaps, the present experiments examined the effects of sadness on intertemporal financial choices of the form $X now versus $(X+Y) later—typical of the choices people make when considering whether to spend now or save to spend more later. Studies of intertemporal choices typically reveal extreme impatience. That is, people typically choose earlier rewards over significantly larger, later rewards, leading to regret. Would sadness reverse the typical pattern by increasing wisdom and decreasing impatience—per the sadder-but-wiser hypothesis? Three experiments show the opposite and quantify the exact financial disadvantage of sadness: Whereas the median neutral-mood participant was indifferent between receiving $19 today and $100 in a year, the median sad-mood participant became indifferent at only $4 today. Moreover, sadness increased impatience even though the emotion was normatively irrelevant to the choice. In sum, sadder is not wiser when it comes to making tradeoffs between time and money, calling into question the otherwise long-supported view that “sadder is wiser.” Explanations and implications are discussed.
The human mind tends to excessively discount the value of delayed rewards relative to immediate ones, and it is thought that "hot" affective processes drive desires for short-term gratification. Supporting this view, recent findings demonstrate that sadness exacerbates financial impatience even when the sadness is unrelated to the economic decision at hand. Such findings might reinforce the view that emotions must always be suppressed to combat impatience. But if emotions serve adaptive functions, then certain emotions might be capable of reducing excessive impatience for delayed rewards. We found evidence supporting this alternative view. Specifically, we found that (a) the emotion gratitude reduces impatience even when real money is at stake, and (b) the effects of gratitude are differentiable from those of the more general positive state of happiness. These findings challenge the view that individuals must tamp down affective responses through effortful self-regulation to reach more patient and adaptive economic decisions.
. Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2013;23(1):106-113.Abstract
Sadness influences consumption, leading individuals to pay more to acquire new goods and to eat more unhealthy food than they would otherwise. These undesirable consumption effects of sadness can occur without awareness, thus representing more than just conscious attempts at "retail therapy." In an experiment with real food consumption, the present paper examines the hypothesis that sadness's impact on consumption could be attenuated if the choice context counteracted appraisals of helplessness and enhanced a sense of individual control. Results revealed that: (1) sadness elevates self-reports of helplessness in response to the emotion-inducing situation, (2) helplessness mediates the sadness-consumption effect, and (3) inducing a sense of control (via choice) attenuates sadness's effect.
We hypothesized a phenomenon that we term myopic misery. According to our hypothesis, sadness increases impatience and creates a myopic focus on obtaining money immediately instead of later. This focus, in turn, increases intertemporal discount rates and thereby produces substantial financial costs. In three experiments, we randomly assigned participants to sad- and neutral-state conditions, and then offered intertemporal choices. Disgust served as a comparison condition in Experiments 1 and 2. Sadness significantly increased impatience: Relative to median neutral-state participants, median sad-state participants accepted 13% to 34% less money immediately to avoid waiting 3 months for payment. In Experiment 2, impatient thoughts mediated the effects. Experiment 3 revealed that sadness made people more present biased (i.e., wanting something immediately), but not globally more impatient. Disgusted participants were not more impatient than neutral participants, and that lack of difference implies that the same financial effects do not arise from all negative emotions. These results show that myopic misery is a robust and potentially harmful phenomenon.
Individuals tend toward status quo bias: preferring existing options over new ones. There is a countervailing phenomenon: Humans naturally dispose of objects that disgust them, such as foul-smelling food. But what if the source of disgust is independent of the object? We induced disgust via a film clip to see if participants would trade away an item (a box of unidentified office supplies) for a new item (alternatively unidentified box). Such "incidental disgust" strongly countered status quo bias. Disgusted people exchanged their present possession 51% of the time compared to 32% for people in a neutral state. Thus, disgust promotes disposal. A second experiment tested whether a warning about this tendency would diminish it. It did not. These results indicate a robust disgust-promotes-disposal effect. Because these studies presented real choices with tangible rewards, their findings have implications for everyday choices and raise caution about the effectiveness of warnings about biases.
. In: Encyclopedia of Peace Psychology . ; 2012.Abstract
Long viewed as an obstacle to be overcome in the pursuit of pure rationality, emotions are now widely recognized as a critical part of the decision-making process. As a result, any complete account of foreign policy decision-making must account for how and when emotions impact political decision-making. Facing difficult issues and multiple constituencies on a daily basis, political decision-makers operate in an environment of near-constant time pressure and stress. How they process information and make judgments involves a complex interplay between affective and cognitive factors. In this article, we present a framework for understanding the different ways in which emotions can enter into the decision-making process and the differential effects of key emotions.
. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109(44):17903-17907.Abstract
As leaders ascend to more powerful positions in their groups, they face ever-increasing demands. As a result, there is a common perception that leaders have higher stress levels than nonleaders. However, if leaders also experience a heightened sense of control--a psychological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects--leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels. Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials, we found that, compared with nonleaders, leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower reports of anxiety (study 1). In study 2, leaders holding more powerful positions exhibited lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than leaders holding less powerful positions, a relationship explained significantly by their greater sense of control. Altogether, these findings reveal a clear relationship between leadership and stress, with leadership level being inversely related to stress.
. Personality Assessment and Individual Differences. 2011;51(3):274-278.Abstract
When making decisions, people sometimes deviate from normative standards. While such deviations may appear to be alarmingly common, examining individual differences may reveal a more nuanced picture. Specifically, the personality factor of need for cognition (i.e., the extent to which people engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities; Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) may moderate decision makers' susceptibility to bias, as could personality factors associated with being a leader. As part of a large-scale assessment of high-level leaders, participants completed a battery of decision-making competence and personality scales, leaders who scored higher on need for cognition performed better on two of four components of a decision-making competence measure: framing and honoring sunk costs. In addition, the leader sample performed better than published controls. Thus, both individual differences in need for cognition and leadership experience moderate susceptibility in decision biases. Implications for broader theories of individual differences and bias are discussed.