Daniel Zahra



Mood, Emotive Content, and Reasoning - Daniel Zahra Theories of how individuals reason, and how they experience emotion abound in the psychological literature; yet, despite the common lay-theories of how emotions might affect a person’s reasoning, very little empirical work has been conducted on this relationship. The current thesis addresses this knowledge-gap by first distilling from the literature two classes of emotion theory; Information, and Load; and then systematically testing the explanatory power of these theories. A dual-process framework is employed in order to define low (Type One) and high effort (Type Two) strategies. Information theories predict that negative emotion cues more analytic processing relative to positive emotion, whereas load theories predict both positive and negative emotion to suppress use of high-effort strategies. Thus the two theories are compared by varying incidental and integral emotion across syllogistic reasoning, conditional reasoning, and the ratio-bias task, and assessing the engagement of Type One and Type Two processes across positive emotion, negative emotion, and control conditions. The findings suggest that emotion effects in syllogistic reasoning do not consistently support either Load or Information theories (Experiments 1-4). Emotion effects are found to be typically larger for integral than incidental emotion (Experiment 5), and most frequently serve as Information in verbal (Experiments 6 and 7) and visual conditional reasoning tasks (Experiment 8). Furthermore, these effects are to a large extent dependent on task properties such as the number of alternative antecedents (Experiments 9 and 10), and are greater on more difficult tasks (Experiments 11 and 12). These findings suggest that emotion has a greater impact on Type Two than Type One processes. A range of methodological and theoretical implications which will inform future work in this area are also discussed in the closing chapter.

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