Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Mood and Openness-to-Feeling Trait on Choice

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Mood and Openness-to-Feeling Trait on Choice

Article excerpt

How do mood states influence risk-taking and choice? This study was conducted to demonstrate and explain the relationship of mood, risk-taking, and choice. The results showed that participants were more likely to systematically display risk-taking behavior when in a negative mood than when in a positive mood. The mood effect was moderated by openness to feelings (OF) in the individual personality.

Keywords: mood, openness-to-feeling, risk-taking tendency.

How do positive and negative moods influence an individual's willingness to take risks? The behavioral decision making and social psychology literature suggest that people in a negative mood are more likely to take risks than those in a positive mood during gambling, strategical decisions, and lottery tasks (Arkes, Herren, & Isen, 1988; Isen & Patrick, 1983; Kuvaas & Kaufmann, 2004; Mittal & Ross, 1998). However, there has been little research on the relationship of mood and risk-taking in typical everyday contexts that do not involve gambling or probability, such as buying new shoes. It is necessary then for us to explore the relationship between mood and risk-taking in everyday decision-making. Since people are not always confronted by gambling and lottery tasks, the research on mood and risk-taking in previous studies may have only limited relevance to everyday choices, which are also usually made in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. Therefore, in this study an attempt was made to understand the relationship between mood and risk-taking in everyday contexts. Of course, people are not equally susceptible to such mood influences; there are likely to be significant differences between individuals in regard to their openness to their own feelings.

For this study, participants in happy or sad moods were asked to offer their preferences regarding risk-taking in 13 different scenarios. It was predicted that people in a positive mood would have a tendency to choose a lower risk option than those in a negative mood. It was also predicted that these temporary mood effects would be considerably greater for individuals who scored high on certain traits (i.e., openness to feelings) than for those who scored low on this measure. Some of the psychological mechanisms likely to be responsible for these effects will be briefly considered.


The increasingly comprehensive literature on mood and social cognition has produced strong evidence that mood states play a major role in how people learn, remember, think about risk-taking, and evaluate complex social information (Berkowitz, Jaffee, & Troccoli, 2000; Bower, 1981; Forgas & Ciarrochi, 2001; Kuvass & Kaufmann, 2004). The associated research on mood and risk-taking was carried out initially by Isen and her colleagues (Isen & Patrick, 1983). Their work found that in gambling and lottery tasks, positive moods (moods induced by small gifts) yielded risk-averse behavior and that negative moods produced risktaking behavior. These results are consistent with those of later studies (Kuvass & Kaufmann, 2004; Mittal & Ross 1998).

A motivational perspective has been proposed to explain the process of the effect of mood on risk-taking. This perspective postulates that people in a positive mood are motivated to maintain the positive mood and to repair the negative mood. In a positive mood, people do not take big risks as doing so increases the potential for large personal losses that might disrupt the positive mood state. Similarly, it can also be asserted that in a negative mood, people will be willing to take higher risks to obtain higher potential gains in the hope of repairing their negative mood state (Mittal & Ross, 1998). Therefore, the influence of mood states on risk-taking is explained by a desire to maintain a positive mood state or mitigate a negative mood state.

Although previous research has provided a valuable empirical and theoretical base for the study of mood effects in risk behavior, that research has a number of limitations for application to everyday decision-making. …

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