Mood

The late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen a dramatic increase in the study of affect in organizations. The affective realm consists of state and trait affect, and there are many types of each. Mood is a transitory affective state that is relatively mild and long lasting. Different from other transitory affective states (i.e., emotions), mood does not have a clear triggering stimulus or a specific object. Rather, mood is present at all times in the background of our minds (i.e., we are not void of mood at any given point in time), although we are not always aware of it. Mood is generally considered either positive or negative, whereas emotions are discrete and specific, such as anger, fear, hope, and joy. Although it is possible to talk about an angry mood, for example, this is different from the emotion of anger in that the angry mood is not related to any known stimulus, is generalized and diffused, lasts a longer time, and is characterized by an overall irritability and tendency to view external stimuli as negative.

There are several theoretical models of the structure of mood. These models describe mood according to two orthogonal and bipolar dimensions, pleasantness and activation. The interplay between these dimensions results in mood ranging from activated (e.g., aroused) to deactivated (e.g., calm); from pleasant (e.g., happy) to unpleasant (e.g., unhappy); from pleasant and activated (e.g., excited) to unpleasant and deactivated (e.g., tired); and from unpleasant activated (e.g., tense) to pleasant deactivated (e.g., relaxed). Other structural models of mood also exist.

Most research has focused on the effects of positive mood. However, there is an asymmetry between the influences of positive and negative moods, such that the effects of negative mood are not necessarily the opposite of those of positive mood. Therefore, caution must be exercised when inferring conclusions about negative mood from research conducted on positive mood, and vice versa.

Methodologies for Studying Mood

Industrial/organizational researchers typically measure mood using self-report measures or implicit measures of mood, usually behaviors. Mood has been studied in both laboratory and field settings using experimental and nonexperimental methods. When studying mood, researchers either manipulate it or measure research participants’ naturally occurring mood. Common methods for manipulating mood are movies, music, and small gifts. The induction of negative moods has been found to result in larger effects than the induction of positive moods. Films and stories are the most efficient methods of mood elicitation.

Influences on Mood

Because mood does not have concrete causes, it may be influenced by an infinite number and unlimited types of causes. Among the commonly studied influences are personality, external factors, and internal factors. External factors that have been found to affect mood are weather, temperature, odor, physical activity, food, and drugs; these factors affect mood through their influence on biological processes. Social influences also affect mood—for example, when people look at the mood of others as a source of information or when the moods of others affect one’s own mood. Internal influences on mood include biological, physiological, and neurological determinants, such as circadian rhythms, fatigue, and arousal. Emotions can also influence mood, which becomes an aftereffect of emotion.

Mood and Personality

In addition to having transient positive and negative moods, people also have positive and negative personality tendencies, known as positive and negative affectivity. It is generally agreed that people who are high in positive affectivity tend to experience more positive moods, and people who are high in negative affectivity tend to experience more negative moods. However, because the correlations between state and trait affect are modest at best, trait affect is not the strongest predictor of mood. Other affective dispositions such as trait affect, also affect mood. For example, trait anxiety leads people to react with more anxiety to certain events and makes it difficult for them to differentiate between justified and unjustified anxiety. Affect intensity (the intensity of an individual’s affective responsiveness) is another personality trait that affects people’s tendency to experience different mood states and ability to regulate their moods.

Mood and Cognition

Mood is related to the cognitive processes of memory, recall, and attention. Consistent findings show mood congruency effects, that is, a congruence between an individual’s mood state, attention to information, coding of information, and retrieval of information, such that mood facilitates the processing of state-congruent materials. For example, people in a positive mood tend to perceive neutral stimuli as more positive, have more positive perceptions of others, and can better recall events that were congruent with their mood when the event occurred. Similar congruency effects have been found for negative moods.

Other robust findings refer to thought processes that are affected by mood. Specifically, people who are in a positive mood tend to use more heuristics, use broader categories to analyze and classify data, and are more cognitively flexible than people in a negative mood, who tend to go through very elaborative thought processes. These processes can lead to a depressive realism effect, whereby people who are slightly depressed have a more realistic grasp of reality and their control of it. People in positive mood, however, look at themselves in ways that are more positive and overestimate their abilities. Thus, there is a trade-off between the accuracy of perception and self-enhancement.

Whereas the preceding research emphasized the importance of valence in affecting cognition, other research has examined the importance of the energy dimension of mood in influencing cognition. According to this research, mood affects cognitive processes through its influence on the efficiency with which people process information. Specifically, mood affects available cognitive resources, attentional selectivity, readiness to respond, and short-term memory, such that higher arousal leads to higher availability of most cognitive resources. These results apply to some tasks, but not to others. Apparently, the relative importance of valence and the energy dimensions of mood depend on the kind of task being performed and the cognitive processes required.

Mood and Performance

Mood can affect performance through its influence on cognitive processes and on motivation. It is generally assumed that people who are in a positive mood are motivated to maintain it, whereas people who are in a negative mood are motivated to repair their emotional state. These motivations sometimes lead to similar behavioral influences of positive and negative mood. At other times, behaviors will differ based on mood.

Research has found that people who are in a positive mood tend to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as helping other people and volunteering more, but only if they perceive their behaviors as affecting them positively. Under some circumstances, people in a negative mood also help others as a means of improving their own emotional state.

Mood has also been found to influence withdrawal behaviors, such as absenteeism. To the extent that the work situation is perceived as negative, withdrawal behaviors will increase. Both positive mood and negative mood have been shown to be related to absenteeism in this manner. Individuals who experience a positive mood at the workplace are less likely to be absent, whereas those who experience a negative mood at work are more likely to be absent.

As for the performance of duties required by a job, the influence of mood is related to the kind of performance that is required. That is, when flexibility, working with others, and creativity are needed, positive mood has a positive influence. For example, research has found a positive relationship between positive mood and customer service activities and between positive mood and creativity. Positive mood also positively influences negotiation and conflict resolution because people in a positive mood are better able to understand the other person’s point of view and more often adopt constructive problem-solving strategies.

When attention to detail and vigilant information processing are needed, negative mood may be preferable; research has shown that negative moods influence more systematic and detailed processing of information. Still, under some circumstances, negative mood leads to less effort on cognitive processes and positive mood leads to more effort in cognitive processing. Depending on the ability of information processing to alleviate a sad mood or worsen a positive mood, and depending on the relevancy of the information, individuals use more or less effort in processing the information, depending on their mood.

Mood also has strong implications for decision making. Research has found that positive moods lead to simplification of complex tasks (which can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the task) and more efficient decision-making processes. People who are in a positive mood also tend to take fewer risks when more is at stake because they have higher sensitivity to loss, which may diminish their positive mood.

Finally, an important indicator of people’s performance is their performance appraisals. Here, mood may have an indirect effect by influencing raters’ tendency to be more lenient, subjected to rating biases, or affected by irrelevant information, such as affection for the individual.

Mood at the Team Level

Until now, the moods of individuals have been discussed. Recently, however, mood has also been studied as a group-level phenomenon, usually referred to as group affect, which is the shared affect among group members. It has been found that mood is contagious— this is one mechanism through which it transfers from one individual to others. In this way, the mood of a single individual affects the mood of the group. Other factors that have been shown to influence the convergence of group members’ mood are task and social interdependence, group membership stability, mood regulation norms, and the leader’s mood.

To conclude, mood plays an important role in the behavior of people and groups in organizations. It is both a result of working in organizations and a cause of people’s behavior.

References:

  1. Barsade, S. G. (2002). The ripple effect: Emotional contagion in groups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47,644-675.
  2. Forgas, J. P., & George, J. M. (2001). Affective influences on judgments and behavior in organizations: An information processing perspective. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 86, 3-34.
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  4. Larsen, R. J. (2000). Toward a science of mood regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 129-141.
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  7. Yik, M. S. M., Russell, J. A., & Barrett, L. F. (1999). Structure of self-reported current affect: Integration and beyond. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 600-619.

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