. In C. Roberto & I. Kawachi (Ed.), Behavioral Economics and Public Health. presented at the Cambridge, Cambridge: Harvard University.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.
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.
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, 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.
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, 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, 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.
. In International Handbook of Anger (pp. 287-311). presented at the New York, New York: Springer.Abstract
In keeping with the handbook format, this chapter identifies four types of methods in the behavioral decision-making literature for detecting the influence of anger on judgments and choices. The types of methods include inferring the presence of anger from behavior, measuring naturally occurring anger or individual differences in anger, manipulating anger, and both measuring and manipulating anger. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each method and present evidence showing that the effects of anger often differ from those of other negative emotions. The chapter also introduces an overarching appraisal-tendency framework for predicting such effects and connects the framework to broader theories and associated mechanisms. Finally, we examine whether anger should be considered a positive emotion and propose that anger is experienced as pleasant when one is looking forward and unpleasant when one is reflecting back on the anger's source.
. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1467-1483.Abstract
People often encounter one emotion-triggering event after another. To examine how an emotion experience affects those that follow, the current article draws on the appraisal-tendency framework and cognitive appraisal theories of emotion. The emotional blunting hypothesis predicts that a specific emotion can carry over to blunt the experience of a subsequent emotion when defined by contrasting appraisal tendencies. Results support the hypothesis: Inducing sadness blunted subsequent anger (Studies 1 and 2), and inducing anger blunted subsequent sadness (Study 2). Situational (human) agency appraisals mediated the effect of anger (sadness) on subsequent sadness (anger) elicitation (Study 2). Priming agency appraisals (Study 3) also moderated results. Finally, the effect of emotional blunting carried over to cognitive outcomes in each of the three studies. Together, the results reveal the importance of examining the sequence of emotional experiences. Implications for emotion and judgment in applied settings (e.g., the courtroom) are discussed.
. In The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences (pp. 111-113). presented at the Oxford, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Abstract
Classical theories of decision making were cognitive in nature: they assumed that decision makers dispassionately evaluated the consequences of alternative courses of action and chose the one that would yield the most positive consequences (for review, Loewenstein and Lerner, 2003). Research in the last several decades has, however, demonstrated powerful effects of emotion on decision making. Moreover, understanding the effects of emotion has become an essential part of building descriptively valid theories of decision making. Here we review some of the ways in which emotion enters into decision making.
. In The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences (pp. 90). presented at the Oxford, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Abstract
A cognitive bias is any systematic deviation from a normative criterion that affects thinking, often leading to errors in judgment. Affect, in particular, may bias cognition, both by altering the depth of cognitive processing and by impacting the content of cognitions. A useful example of emotion altering depth of processing appears in studies by Bodenhausen et al (1994). Happy individuals demonstrated less depth of processing than individuals in a neutral affective state, as evidenced by their reliance on simple mental categories rather than on complex stimuli. A useful example of emotion altering the content of thought appears in studies on the affect-as-information model (see affect-as-information). Individuals in a positive mood judged their overall life satisfaction more positively than did individuals in a negative mood. That is, their temporary positive mood altered the content of their thoughts about satisfaction as a whole.
Misery is not miserly: Sadness increases the amount of money that decision makers give up to acquire a commodity. The present research investigated when and why the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs. Drawing on William James's concept of the material self, we tested a model specifying relationships among sadness, self-focus, and the amount of money that decision makers spend. Consistent with our Jamesian hypothesis, results demonstrated that the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs only when self-focus is high. That is, self-focus moderates the effect of sadness on spending. Moreover, mediational analyses revealed that, at sufficiently high levels, self-focus mediates (explains) the relationship between sadness and spending. Because the study used real commodities and real money, the results hold implications for everyday decisions, as well as implications for the development of theory. For example, economic theories of spending may benefit from incorporating psychological theories--specifically, theories of emotion and the self--into their models.