Self-control and the influence of affective stimuli on judgments
Warsaw School of Social Psychology
In order to explain the influence of affect on judgments a functional approach
is proposed in the article. The author demonstrates that an emotional stimulus
influences judgment: a) in the direction in which it prompts (assimilation effect),
b) in the opposite direction (contrast effect) or c) not at all; and that the
influence is not determined by awareness / lack of awareness of the stimulus
itself, but by the strength of motivation. Many experiments applying the affective
priming paradigm supported the notion that the attenuation of self-control through
deactivation of goals or cognitive overloading leads to an assimilation effect.
In these cases assimilation was observed even in response to long-lasting
exposition of affective stimuli (1000 msec, which is sufficient for conscious
perception). However, intensifying self-control, i.e. error checking (monitoring),
favored contrast effects, also in the case of preconscious attention engagement
(when the exposure time was too short for conscious perception - e.g. 20 msec).
Such a phenomenon can be explained by attention-automatic rebound hypothesis,
derived from Wegner's theory of ironic processes of mental control. A compilation
of research and a preliminary experiment support this hypothesis.
Key words: affective assimilation, affective contrast, intuitive self-control,
conscious attention, modes of information processing