Defining, Measuring, and Investigating what Role Neutral Affective States play in Judgment, Motivation, and Regulation

Project: Research project

Project Details


People know that their feelings influence their thoughts, decisions, and actions. In fact, people may try to put themselves into a more neutral affective state in order to avoid any undue affective biases. But do neutral affective states really exist? And if so, does putting oneself into a neutral state help reduce affective biases? This project examines these important and potentially paradigm-shifting questions as it seeks to determine whether neutral affect may actually create rather than eliminate affective influences. Across 5 experiments, the investigator considers whether neutral affect is a feeling of indifference about the environment, as well as how best to measure it.

This research investigates three key concerns about neutral affect and tests the innovative proposition that neutral affect may actually create affective influences, thereby altering judgment, shaping motivation, and requiring affective regulation. In the past, researchers in this area have clearly focused on valenced states, with neutral mood serving primarily as a valence control condition. The current work breaks with this tradition by focusing on the informational value that can be associated with neutral moods. In so doing, this research will use the tools typical of previous studies of valenced states to show that 'indifference' information is conveyed by neutral states. This work can potentially contribute to a better understanding of ways to overcome indifference, and ultimately help to shed light on techniques that would advance discovery and promote learning. In addition, members of underrepresented groups will be included in this project as research participants and as research assistants.

Effective start/end date9/1/108/31/13


  • National Science Foundation: $191,494.00


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