Emotion Validates Cognition: A New Approach to Attitude Change and Ambivalence

Friday, 2017, May 26 - 12:00
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Ohio State University


Our research on meta-cognition revealed for the first time that happiness experienced after thinking increased thought use compared to sadness. In the opening part of the presentation, I will describe studies showing that happy versus sad states can influence the validity with which people hold their available thoughts, regardless of the type or nature of those thoughts. As a consequence, happiness increases persuasion when thoughts are positive but it decreases persuasion when thoughts are negative. Importantly, because happiness is associated with appraisals of both more pleasantness and more confidence than sadness, it is not clear if the enhanced use of thoughts is due to affective or cognitive validation. In order to examine this issue, in a second block of studies, I will compare the emotions of anger and disgust to the emotions of surprise and awe because of their opposite appraisals on the pleasantness and confidence dimensions. Anger and disgust are associated with feeling unpleasant as well as experiencing a sense of confidence whereas surprise and awe tend to be relatively more pleasant but doubtful emotions. In the studies describe in this second part of the presentation, it was predicted and found that anger and disgust following thought generation led to more thought use than surprise and awe when a certainty appraisal was encouraged, but led to less thought use when a pleasantness appraisal was made salient. Finally, this process of validation is independent of what is validated. Confidence and pleasantness applies to whatever the available mental contents are at the time, including thoughts in response to persuasion, self-relevant cognitions, goals, and any other mental constructs. Given that meta-cognitive validation can be applied to any cognition, the third part of the presentation will cover a series of paradoxical cases in which people have confidence (or doubt) in their own mental doubts, psychological conflicts, and attitudinal ambivalence. 


Selected Readings:

Briñol, P., Petty, R. E., & Barden, J. (2007).  Happiness versus sadness as determinants of thought confidence in persuasion: A self-validation analysis.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 711-727. (pdf)

Durso, G. R. O., Briñol, P., & Petty, R. E. (2016). From power to inaction: Ambivalence gives pause to the powerful. Psychological Science, 27, 1660-1666 (pdf)

Petty, R. E., & Briñol, P. (2015). Emotion and persuasion: Cognitive and meta-cognitive processes impact attitudes.  Cognition and Emotion, 29, 1-26(pdf)