Mood and the perception of unusual people: Affective asymmetry in memory and social judgments



Does good and bad mood have a different influence on our perceptions of typical and atypical people? In this experiment, people in happy, sad or neutral moods recalled, and formed impressions of high- or low-prototypical characters. We expected an asymmetric mood effect on memory, with better recall of typical targets that require simplified, schematic processing in positive mood, but greater negative mood effects on atypical targets that require more detailed and inferential processing. Subjects (N = 66) an audio-visual mood induction in an allegedly separate experiment, before recalling, and forming impressions about people who were consistent or inconsistent with familiar prototypes within their social milieu. We found the predicted mood-congruent bias in judgments, that was significantly greater for non-typical than for typical people. We also found evidence for positive-negative mood asymmetry in memory, with better recall of typical people in positive mood, and atypical people in negative mood. The findings are discussed in terms of contemporary multi-process models of affect and cognition (Forgas, 1992), and the implications for everyday affective influences on social judgments and stereotyping are considered.