Both theoretical approaches and empirical evidence suggest that negative affect fosters analytic processing, whereas positive affect fosters holistic processing, but these effects are inconsistent. We aim to show that (a) differences in affect regulation abilities (“action orientation”) and (b) implicit more so than self-reported affect assessment need to be considered to advance our understanding of these processes.
Forty participants were asked to verify whether a word was correctly or incorrectly spelled to measure analytic processing, as well as to intuitively assess whether sets of three words were coherent (remote associates task) to measure holistic processing. As expected, implicit but not explicit negative affect interacted with low action orientation (“state orientation”) to predict higher d' performance in word spelling, whereas implicit but not explicit positive affect interacted with high action orientation to predict higher d' performance in coherence judgments for word triads. Results are interpreted according to personality systems interaction theory. These findings suggest that affect and affect changes should be measured explicitly and implicitly to investigate affect-cognition interactions. Moreover, they suggest that good affect regulators benefit from positive affect for holistic processing, whereas bad affect regulators benefit from negative affect for analytical processing.