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The effects of anger, sadness and happiness on persuasive message processing: a test of the negative state relief Model

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Although scholars have posited that message strength has a weak effect for those in happy moods, and a strong effect on individuals in sad or neutral moods (e.g., Bless, Mackie, & Schwarz, 1992), research findings reveal contradictory results. Moreover, several theoretical observations of this effect have treated emotion as if it exists on a continuum with "negative emotion" on one end, and "positive" emotion on the other end. We sought to further examine the affect of happiness and sadness on persuasion, and to compare these effects with the impact of anger on attitude positivity and persuasive message processing. We predicted if the negative state relief model is the dominant model of emotion, then anger and sadness should "behave" similarly, but if emotions are discrete and unique, anger and sadness should elicit distinct effects. A4 (anger, sadness, happiness, control) X2 (strong message, weak message) independent groups design was employed. Consistent with past research, message strength was positively correlated with attitude, intention and behavior, but was negatively correlated with negative thoughts, and counterarguments. When considering recall, and thought relevance unique interactions emerged dependent on the emotion(s) participants experienced. In general, the negative state relief effect was not supported.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Texas-Austin 2: University of Oklahoma 3: Southwest Texas State University

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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