Negative affect and social judgment: The differential impact of anger and sadness



The overwhelming majority of research on affect and social information processing has focused on the judgments and memories of people in good or bad moods rather than examining more specific kinds of emotional experience within the broad categories of positive and negative affect. Are all varieties of negative affect alike in their impact on social perception? Three experiments were conducted to examine the possibility that different kinds of negative affect (in this case, anger and sadness) can have very different kinds of effects on social information processing. Experiment I showed that angry subjects rendered more stereotypic judgments in a social perception task than did sad subjects, who did not differ from neutral mood subjects. Experiments 2 and 3 similarly revealed a greater reliance upon heuristic cues in a persuasion situation among angry subjects. Specifically, their level of agreement with unpopular positions was guided more by the credibility of the person advocating the position. These findings are discussed in terms of the impact of emotional experience on social information-processing strategies.