A Cognitive-Functional Model for the Effects of Discrete Negative Emotions on Information Processing, Attitude Change, and Recall


  • Robin L. Nabi

  • Robin L. Nabi (PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, 1998) is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Arizona. The author gratefully acknowledges the helpful comments of James Anderson, three anonymous reviewers, Joseph Cappella, John L. Sullivan, and Paul Mongeau during the preparation of this manuscript. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robin Nabi, University of Arizona, Department of Communication, Bldg. 25, Rm. 219, Tucson, AZ 85721, rnabi@u.arizona.edu.


Drawing from cognitive response models of persuasion, functional emotion theories, and theoretical and empirical work on the influence of message-relevant and message-irrelevant affect on attitudes, this paper presents a model of persuasion that suggests that discrete, message-induced negative emotions influence attitudes through a complex process that centers around the notions of motivated attention and motivated processing. Emotion type, expectation of the message containing reassuring information, argument strength, presence of peripheral cues, emotional intensity, and emotion placement within a message are expected to mediate information processing depth, message acceptance or rejection, and information recall. This model attempts to bridge the gap between the “emotional” and “rational” approaches to persuasion, and it extends current theorizing in the area of emotion and attitude change by (a) linking the concepts of motivated attention and motivated processing to that of expectation of message reassurance, and (b) considering the persuasive effects of negative emotions other than fear, like anger, disgust, sadness, and guilt.