Do People Make Decisions Based on Mood?

“There has been considerable debate about how affect (moods, emotions, feelings) influences the quality of people’s decisions,” said the authors of a new study that found a link between a person’s positive mood and their ability to make decisions more quickly and more consistently than people with negative moods. Christine M. Page of Skidmore College, Bruce E. Pfeiffer of the University of New Hampshire, Derick F. Davis and Paul M. Herr, of Virginia Tech, said, “We join this debate by looking at affect’s influence on a very basic element of decision-making: deciding if an object is liked or disliked.”

Participants of the study were shown images of pleasant and unpleasant things, such as cute puppies or diseased feet. They were then asked to remember particular unpleasant and pleasant events from their past experiences. The participants were then given pictures of common, neutral objects and were asked to apply an evaluative adjective, either negative or positive, to the common object. “Our prior research found that people respond faster to positive adjectives than negative adjectives,” said the authors. “The present work finds that this difference disappeared for people in the positive affect conditions.” They discovered that those who were shown positive images responded more consistently and more quickly than those who viewed negative images. “These results have implications for how we navigate our world. The decision we make about liking or disliking objects around us are fundamental to which things we approach and which things we avoid,” said the authors.

They added that retailers should create positive shopping experiences in order to capitalize on the consumer’s decision making process and should be wary of negative sales staff or offensive marketing campaigns. The researchers added, “The result may also be relevant for understanding consumer responses to new products in which an initial judgment or liking/disliking is critical to the product’s success.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Murray J. Bennett

    Murray J. Bennett

    July 19th, 2011 at 11:01 PM

    My brain’s definitely sharper when I’m in a good mood and I can make decisions much faster than if I’m not. When I’m feeling negative everything’s chore down to deciding what clothes I’m going to wear or what to have for lunch. Happiness makes me brighter in more ways than one.

  • betty


    July 20th, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    when my mood’s off,even good things seem too much ‘nd i withdraw.i jus’ want to be left alone in such a situation.’nd if ur tryin’ to sell me a product then,ur actually talking to a wall.

  • vanessa peters

    vanessa peters

    July 20th, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    people definitely make decisions based on mood…

    and this is true for both good and bad mood.

    if I’m happy I may decide to go out or shop, while if I’m low I’d rather keep to myself.

  • Jack Smith

    Jack Smith

    July 20th, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Wow i would say that a persons mood definitely affects their decision making. Going so far as to say that being a calm relaxed state may actually put you in a much more vulnerable state on critical decisions. I have actually purchased a time share under just such a situation. The family was at our current timeshare and we went on one of those just get more Marriott point promo’s. Before we left the promo somehow I owned a timeshare week for christmas week at the beach. Reflecting back on it I think the article above is dead on target. If retailers could recreate the vacation experience for myself and family we would be much easier targets for their wares…

  • Marcie Geller

    Marcie Geller

    July 20th, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    We’ve all made stupid decisions from time to time, mostly while angry. It’s normal for your emotions to heavily influence you one way or another. It’s why you need time to think about any decisions you plan to make, so you know what you’re doing. Rational thought is what’s needed, not an emotional tug.

  • Erik S. Williams

    Erik S. Williams

    July 20th, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    @Marcie Geller-I once made a really bad decision to throw out all my writing years ago because I was sick and tired of my editor making what I considered to be completely arbitrary criticisms. I saw every single thing he said as an attack on me.

    He was in truth pointing out serious inconsistencies when I think calmly about what he was saying. I very much regret trashing all my work like that.

  • Y.D.


    July 20th, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    I’d definitely be in a pretty bad mood if I was being shown pictures of diseased feet instead of cute puppies LOL. To be serious now, there are things I would go to great lengths to get rid of if I was in the right mood for it.

  • ernest j.

    ernest j.

    July 20th, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    I’d think that you would make a decision more speedily when you’re in a bad mood. A bad mood always brings out an urge to destroy something in me and being able to destroy a decision by answering it with the first thing that comes to mind is part of that.

  • Kirk G. Malcolm

    Kirk G. Malcolm

    July 20th, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    @ernestj: That’s true, but your decisions when you’re in the middle of a tantrum are based on your first thought, and not anything to do with your thought process at all. It says that people in a good mood can make more rational ones. When you’re seeing red, that’s all you see.

  • Chrissie Howard

    Chrissie Howard

    July 20th, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    This is making me wonder why folks are heavily pressured into making a decision that they don’t want to deal with. If you start telling me to hurry up and make my choice when I have all the time in the world I’m going to be quite furious because there’s every chance I’ll make a bad decision. I detest that.

  • justine


    July 23rd, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    it is true- bad mood for me equals bad decisions

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