Academic journal article Contemporary Management Research

The Varying Influences of Positive Emotions on Consumption Motivation

Academic journal article Contemporary Management Research

The Varying Influences of Positive Emotions on Consumption Motivation

Article excerpt


This research investigates how subjective emotional experiences - which should be largely irrelevant to judgment and choices - impact consumers' reward-seeking behaviors. Extant theories of affective influences on consumption motivation have taken a valence-based approach, contrasting the effects of positive versus negative states of emotion. These approaches have not specified if and when distinct emotions of the same valence have different effects on motivation. This research not only demonstrates that positive emotions have a wide range of influences on motivation, but also how frequent exposure to distinct and unrelated positive emotions systematically affects reward-seeking behaviors.

Keywords: Motivation, Emotions, Reward Seeking, Consumption

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Historically, decision-making was viewed as a cognitive process - a matter of making a choice with the intention of maximizing the positive consequences (Loewenstein & Lerner, 2003). In psychologists' line of thinking, it is analogous to the theory of utility maximization espoused by economists, whereby people are assumed to be rational. Yet countless research studies have shown that human behavior fails to comply with the assumption of rationality.

Humans are so often irrational because our feelings frequently interfere with our choices. A summary of such research can be found in Dan Ariely's books, Predictably Irrational (Ariely & Jones, 2008), and The Upside of Irrationality (Ariely, 2010). The past two decades have witnessed growing interest in research into the role emotions play in judgment and choice (for review, see Han, Lerner & Keltner, 2007). For example, Johnson and Tversky (1983) demonstrated that positive emotions lead people to make more optimistic assessments of their choices than negative emotions. Conversely, negative emotions have been shown to lead people to make more pessimistic assessments of their choices than positive emotions (Wright & Bower, 1992). More recently, Custers and Aarts (2005), Aarts, Custers & Marien (2008), and Baumeister et al. (2007) further demonstrated that a positive emotional state is an important aspect of an individual's goal representation; the state motivates people to behave in ways that that assist in reaching their goals. Once a goal has been achieved, this positive feeling then dissipates (Atkinson & Birch, 1970). These studies investigate what Loewenstein and Lerner (2003) termed "integral emotion": emotion which encompasses influences of subjective experiences that are normatively relevant to present judgments and choices.

On the other hand, emotions may also be "incidental." Incidental emotions are the subjective emotional experiences that should be normatively irrelevant to present judgment and choices (for review, see Forgas & Locke, 2005; Lerner & Keltner, 2000). For example, emotions produced by listening to music, experiencing bad weather, or reliving stressful events have been shown to influence judgments on unrelated topics and objects (Bodenhausen, Kramer & Süsser, 1994; Forgas & Bower, 1988; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). Such incidental carryover occurs even when decisionmakers are unaware of such influences, and also when concrete economic outcomes are at stake (Lerner, Small & Loewenstein, 2004).

However, the impact of emotions on behaviors extends beyond the distinction between positive and negative emotions. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of examining specific emotions in addition to global positive and negative feelings (Bodenhausen et al., 1994; Lerner, Han & Keltner, 2007a). For example, in their investigation of incidental negative emotions on the endowment effect1, Lerner et al. (2004) showed that the difference between the selling and buying price of a specific item was not significant when the subject was primed with disgust (no endowment effect), while they documented a reverse endowment effect (buying price exceeded selling price) when the subject was primed with sadness. …

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