How Mood Affects Self-Control
“As such, unhappy people end up investing more effort on a self-control task when it is incompatible with their accessible goal.”
Abstract (Via Fishback & Labroo @ UC)
Six studies test whether the effect of mood on self-control success depends on a person’s accessible goal. Positive mood signals a person to adopt an accessible goal, whereas negative mood signals a person to reject an accessible goal; therefore, if self-improvement goal is accessible, happy (vs. neutral or unhappy) people perform better on self-control tasks that further that goal. Conversely, if mood management goal is accessible, happy people abstain from self- control tasks because the tasks are incompatible with this goal. This patten receives consistent support across several self-control tasks, including donating to charity, physical endurance, seeking negative feedback, and completing tests.
Findings (Via Fishback & Labroo @ UC)
The results of Studies 2, 5, and 6 are consistent with such findings, attesting that unhappy people abstain from self-control tasks when they view them in relation to a long-term goal but are more likely to pursue these same tasks in the absence of a long-term goal. Thus, in our studies, participants in a negative mood invested the least efforts in working on self-control tasks when we primed them with a self-improvement goal (i.e., high goal–task compatibility), but they invested the most efforts on the same tasks when we primed them with a mood management goal (i.e., low goal–task compatibility). Thus, they showed the opposite pattern of what the goal priming entails. This pattern is congruent with the notion that negative mood leads to a general tendency to reject any accessible goal, regardless of it long-term versus short-term nature. As such, unhappy people end up investing more effort on a self-control task when it is incompatible with their accessible goal.