Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
1996, Vol. 71, No. 4, 665-679
Copyright 1996 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
Mood and the Use of Scripts:
Does a Happy Mood Really Lead to Mindlessness?
Gerald L. Clore
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Michigan
Verena Golisano, Christina Rabe,
and Marcus W61k
The authors tested whether happy moods increase, and sad moods decrease, reliance on general
knowledge structures. Participants in happy, neutral, or sad moods listened to a "going-out-for-
dinner" story. Happy participants made more intrusion errors in recognition than did sad partici-
pants, with neutral mood participants falling in between (Experiments 1 and 2), Happy participants
outperformed sad ones when they performed a secondary task while listening to the story
(Experiment 2), but only when the amount of script-inconsistent information was small
(Experiment 3 ). This pattern of findings indicates higher reliance on general knowledge structures
under happy rather than sad moods. It is incompatible with the assumption that happy moods
decrease either cognitive capacity or processing motivation in general, which would predict impaired
Recent research suggests that happy moods are associated
with heuristic processing strategies, whereas sad moods are as-
sociated with systematic elaboration of information (for an
overview, see Clore, Schwarz, & Conway, 1994; Schwarz &
Clore, in press). Several of the accounts offered for such find-
ings assume that happy moods reduce the amount of process-
ing. Accounts based on cognitive capacity (Isen, 1987; Mackie
& Worth, 1989) argue that being in a good mood limits pro-
cessing capacity, because of the activation of a large amount
of interconnected positive material stored in memory. Hence,
individuals in a good mood may not have the cognitive re-
sources required by systematic processing strategies and may
therefore default to less taxing heuristic strategies. Accounts
based on mood maintenance motivation (Isen, 1987; Wegener,
Petty, & Smith, 1995) argue that individuals in happy moods
avoid investing cognitive effort in tasks unless doing so promises
to maintain or enhance their positive mood. Hence, individuals
Herbert Bless, Verena Golisano, Christina Rabe, and Marcus W'61k,
Psychologisches Institut, Universita't Heidelberg, Hei~telberg, Germany;
Gerald L. Clore, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign; Norbert Schwarz, Institute of Social Research,
University of Michigan.
The research reported in this article was supported by Grants B 1
289/5 and Schw 278/2 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft,
National Science Foundation Grant SBR-93-11879, and National In-
stitute of Mental Health Grant MH-50074. We thank Galen Boden-
hausen, Gerd Bohner, Klaus Fiedler, Michaela Wanke, and Bob Wyer
for stimulating discussions.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Her-
bert Bless, Psychologisches Institut, Universit~it Heidelberg, Haupt-
strasse 47-51, D-69 ! 17 Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic mail may be
sent via the Internet to zbv8@psi-sv l.psi.uni-heidelberg.de.
in a good mood are not motivated to engage in systematic pro-
cessing and are likely to resort to heuristic processing for that
reason. A third account is based on the affect-as-information
hypothesis (Schwarz & Clore, 1983). According to this view,
negative affect signals that the environment poses a problem,
whereas positive affect signals that the environment is benign.
As a result, negative affective cues may motivate detail-oriented,
systematic processing, which is usually adaptive in handling
problematic situations. In contrast, positive affective states, by
themselves, signal no particular action requirement, and happy
individuals may hence not be motivated to expend cognitive
effort unless called for by other goals (see Schwarz, 1990, for a
more detailed discussion).
Mood-induced differences in processing strategy have been
most reliably observed in research on mood and persuasion (see
Schwarz, Bless, & Bohner, 1991, for a review) and person per-
ception (see Sinclair & Mark, 1992, for a review), but despite
empirical support for an association between heuristic process-
ing and happy moods the evidence that heuristic processing is
due to the hypothesized motivational or capacity deficits is less
conclusive than is often assumed. First, the amount of process-
ing-the crucial mediating variable--has rarely been directly
assessed. Most often it has only been inferred that increased use
of heuristics must result from some motivational or capacity
Second, a close look at the evidence supporting reduced pro-
cessing reveals some ambiguities. For example, in persuasion
studies, the attitudes of happy individuals were less influenced
by quality of argument than were the attitudes of individuals in
neutral or sad moods (e.g., Bless, Bohner, Schwarz, & Strack,
1990; Bless, Mackie, & Schwarz, 1992; Mackie & Worth, 1989;
Worth & Mackie, 1987). It has been argued that, because of
motivational or capacity deficits, happy participants do not
BLESS ET AL
elaborate the message content and hence are not influenced by
message quality. However; it has been shown (e.e~, Bless et al.,
1990; Worth & Mackie, 1987) that, when explicitly asked to
evaluate message quality, happy participants differentiate be-
tween strong and weak arguments as much as neutral or sad
mood participants. If happy participants fail to detect differ-
ences in message quality when making their attitude judgment,
it is not clear how they could have this information available
later on, when asked to rate the strength of the arguments. Sim-
ilarly, in several studies (e.g., Bless et al., 1990) happy, neutral,
and sad mood participants did not differ in their ability to recall
the content of a message. These results suggest that happy par-
ticipants noticed the quality of the arguments presented to them
but did not use this information when making an attitude
Third, the conclusion of reduced processing under happy
moods seems at odds with some other available evidence. For
example, happy participants outperform participants in a neu-
tral or sad mood in creativity and problem-solving tasks (for
an overview, see Isen, 1987). In a related vein, Martin and his
colleagues (Martin, Ward, Achee, & Wyer, 1993) found that
good mood could decrease as well as increase processing de-
pending on how participants interpreted the implications of
In sum, the evidence for reduced processing under happy
moods due to motivational or capacity constraints seems less
conclusive than is often assumed, although happy individuals'
reliance on heuristic strategies appears to be a rather consistent
A Mood-and-General-Knowledge Assumption
Bless ( t 994) proposed an alternative model that accounts for
increased heuristic processing under happy mood without mak-
ing assumptions about the amount of processing. On the basis
of previous theorizing that applied the affect-as-information
view (Schwarz & Ctore, 1983) to task situations (Schwarz,
1990; Schwarz & Bless, 1991 ), it is assumed that negative affect
informs the individual that the current situation is unproblem-
atic, whereas positive affect signals the absence of a particular
problem. Our position in the present article departs from pre-
vious theorizing, however, with respect to how the information
about the current situation is interpreted.
The present approach holds that it would be highly adaptive
for individuals to differentially rely on their general knowledge
structures as a function of their current psychological situation
(Bless, 1994). Ifa situation is characterized as benign, individ-
uals may rely on their general knowledge structures, which usu-
ally serve them well. In contrast, if a situation is characterized
as problematic, relying on one's usual routine may be maladap-
rive, and attention to the specifics of the situation is called for.
Hence, benign situations may invite top-down processing with
considerable reliance on preexisting general knowledge struc-
tures, whereas problematic situations may invite bottom-up
processing, with less reliance on general knowledge structures.
Assuming further that individuals' affective states provide in-
formation about the benign or problematic nature of their cur-
rent situation, it follows that moods may influence the degree to
which individuals rely on general knowledge structures. Spe-
cifically, individuals in positive affectivc states may feel more
confident about relying on activated general knowledge struc-
tures that are potentially applicable to the situation. In contrast,
individuals in negative affcctive states may feel less confident
about relying on general knowledge structures and may focus
more on the specific data at hand. Such a mood-dependent reli-
ance on general knowledge structures versus the data at hand
would direct individuals' attention toward the information that
is presumably most adequate given the nature of the situation
signaled by their affectivc states.
In addition to directing attention toward useful information,
two additional advantages seem worth mentioning. First, rely-
ing on general knowledge structures will require fewer process-
ing resources. It would be highly adaptive if these spared re-
sources could be more beneficially allocated to other tasks (note
that this assumption does not imply that the reduced processing
is causing the reliance on general knowledge structures; see Ex-
periment 2). Second, general knowledge structures can serve to
enrich the stimulus information at hand and can provide a basis
for making inferences beyond the information given (Bruner,
1957). Moreover, going beyond the information given may
sometimes lead individuals to new, creative inferences. Given
thc risky nature of new solutions, it seems highly adaptive to
rely on general knowledge structures as a basis for inferences,
particularly if the situation is safe rather than already charac-
terized as problcrnatic.
The assumed adaptive function of relying on general knowl-
edge structures versus relying on the specifics of the situation
is shared by other theorists. Although coming from a different
starting point, Gray (1971 ) made analogous suggestions with
respect to the role of positive and negative affect. According to
his position, positive affect leads organisms to behave on the
basis of habits, and negative affect leads them to engage in learn-
ing. In a related vein, Piaget (1955) differentiated between as-
similation processes, that is, the application of general struc-
tures to the current situation, and accommodation, that is, the
adaptation of knowledge structures to fit the data at hand. It is
important to note that Piaget assumed that unsuccessful assim-
ilation attempts are often associated with negative affective
states. In other words, individuals in negative affective states are
less likely to rely on general knowledge structures. The notion
that negative situations are associated with more specific repre-
sentations is also part of Vallacher and Wegncr's (1987) action-
identification theory, which assumes that successful actions are
represented on a more general level, whereas unsuccessful ac-
tions are represented on more specific levels. Finally, Fiedler's
(1990) dual-force model also incorporates similar assump-
tions. Fiedler (1990) argued that positive moods encourage in-
dividuals to go beyond the given data, to generate new informa-
tion, and to focus on this internally generated information,
whereas negative moods support "conservation" processes of
externally provided information.
Although the various approaches differ in details, they all
share the notion that relying on general knowledge structures in
unproblematic situations, and relying on the data at hand in
i Evidence for the diversity of possible implications was reported by
Martin et al. (1993).
MOOD AND SCRIPTS
problematic situations, reflects a useful adaptation to the cur-
rent situation. However, none of these positions assume differ-
ences in the general motivation to engage in or to avoid cognitive
The mood-and-general-knowledge assumption is compatible
with much of the available evidence. If we consider heuristic
processing as the application of general knowledge structures to
specific information (Nisbett & Ross, 1980), including the use
of schemas, scripts, or global categories, then the use of heuris-
tics in happy moods and the assumption that happy individuals
rely on general knowledge structures are compatible.
The presented approach is also compatible with evidence
bearing directly on the mood-dependent impact of general
knowledge structures. For example, recent research suggests
that activated stereotypes have more impact on the processing
of happy than of sad individuals (Bless, Schwarz, & Kemmel-
meier, in press; Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Siisser, 1994; Boden-
hausen, Sheppard, & Kramer, 1994; see also Edwards & Weary,
1993, for analogous differences between depressed and nonde-
pressed participants). Similarly, in the persuasion domain,
happy participants are more likely than sad participants to rely
on a previously formed global representation of a persuasive
message (Bless et al., 1992). However, much of the available
evidence is not only compatible with the mood-and-general-
knowledge assumption but also with competing hypotheses that
trace reliance on general knowledge structures to happy partic-
ipants' tendency to simplify processing. To test these competing
assumptions, in the present studies we investigated the impact
of mood on the use of scripts, that is, a form of general knowl-
edge structure that has not been investigated previously in re-
search on affect and cognition.
Event schemas or scripts are a form of general knowledge
structure containing "a standard sequence of events character-
izing typical activities" (Abelson, 1981, p. 715; Schank & Abel-
son, 1977; see also Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Schwarz, 1985). The
generic structure allows individuals to rely on a relevant script
when interpreting specific information.
The effects and efficiency of script-based processing depend
largely on the relation between the script and the specific infor-
mation. Specific information that is typical of the script, that
is, information that is already part of the individual's generic
knowledge, can be processed efficiently. It can also be "recalled"
easily, because it can be reconstructed from the general knowl-
edge structure. However, the advantage of this reconstruction
process comes at the cost of increased intrusion errors. Because
iris difficult to differentiate between information that is part of
the generic knowledge structure and the specific information
that has been presented, reliance on a script increases the erro-
neous "recall" of script-consistent information that has not
been presented (Graesser, Gordon, & Sawyer, 1979; Snyder &
Uranowitz, 1978; for various explanations see Fiske & Taylor,
1991; Trafimow & Wyer, 1993). Hence, script-based processing
increases the recall of typical information, independent of
whether it has been presented.
A different picture emerges for information that is not part of
the script. Information that is atypical, irrelevant, or inconsis-
tent with the script cannot be reconstructed. In contrast to typ-
ical information, recall of atypical, irrelevant, or inconsistent
information requires more processing. Consequently, the recall
of such information depends on whether individuals are willing
and able to invest extra effort (see W~yer & Srull, 1989, for a
review). Accordingly, we can use the recall of information that
is typical or atypical in the context of a given script to gauge the
impact of moods on the use of generic knowledge structures
and on the amount of processing effort expended.
To determine whether individuals in happy or sad moods are
more likely to rely on scripts, we presented participants in a
happy or sad mood with a story about "going out for dinner"
and assessed recognition memory. If happy participants rely
more strongly on the activated script than sad participants, they
should be more likely to erroneously recognize typical informa-
tion that was not part of the story, resulting in higher intrusion
errors under a happy than a sad mood. The impact of mood on
the recognition of presented typical information, on the other
hand, is more difficult to predict.
Happy participants' reliance on the script should facilitate
their recognition of presented typical information through a re-
construction process, and the systematic elaboration of the
story under sad mood should increase recognition of all pre-
sented information. Hence, happy participants' reconstruction
processes as well as sad participants' elaboration of the specific
information are likely to result in a high rate of correct recog-
nition of presented typical items. 2
Whereas the erroneous recognition of typical items
(intrusion errors) bears on participants' reliance on the script,
their recognition performance for atypical items bears on the
amount of processing extended. Specifically, atypical items can-
not be reconstructed from the script and will be correctly rec-
ognized only if they received sufficient elaboration at encoding.
Hence, happy participants should show poorer recognition
memory for atypical items ifthey are less motivated or have less
processing capacity than sad participants. On the other hand, if
happy and sad participants do not differ in their willingness or
ability to elaborate on atypical information, few differences in
recognition memory for atypical items should be obtained.
As an alternative, mood may influence guessing strategies on
the recognition task. To control for this possibility, we varied
the timing of the mood induction such that participants were
in a happy or a sad mood either only at encoding or only at
recognition. Mood effects can be attributed to mood-dependent
guessing strategies only if participants are in a pronounced
mood at recognition, but not if the mood is present only at en-
coding. Accordingly, the timing of the mood induction allows
us to differentiate between these possibilities. 3
2 The amount of presented information is probably a crucial media-
tot. It is more likely to impair the performance of sad participants, as
they arc actually elaborating on the presented information. Thus, the
more information is presented, the "better" the recognition of happy
participants for prcscntcd typical items relative to the recognition of sad
3 Although the encoding as wcU as retrieval stages have been found
to bc influenced by schemas, schemas tend to bc more effective when
activated prior to encoding (scc Fiskc & Taylor, 1991 ). Note, however,
that in the present study the script is always activated prior to encoding,
so that the timing of the mood induction may influence how much par-
668 BLESS ET AL.
In summary, we exposed participants to a restaurant story
and activated the relevant script at encoding in all conditions.
To explore the impact of moods, we induced participants into
happy or sad moods either only at encoding or only at recogni-
tion. Participants' recognition memory for typical or atypical
information that was or was not presented as part of the story
served as the dependent variable. We expected that happy par-
ticipants would show more intrusion errors for nonpresented
typical information than sad participants, reflecting their in-
creased reliance on general knowledge structures at encoding.
Moreover, we used happy and sad participants' recognition per-
formance on presented atypical information to gauge the
amount of processing effort extended.
Participants, Design, and Overview
Eighty-two students of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Cham-
paign participated in partial fulfillment of their course requirement.
Participants were randomly assigned to the conditions of a 2 (happy vs.
sad mood) × 2 (mood induction before encoding vs. before retrieval)
factorial design. Participants were received in groups of up to 6 by the
experimenter, who briefly explained that participants would be com-
pleting various independent tasks that had been combined into one ses-
sion. These tasks (described below) included (a) the mood induction,
(b) the presentation of the restaurant story, (c) a neutral filler task, and
(d) the recognition task.
For the mood induction task, participants were asked to provide a
vivid written report of either a happy or a sad life event, purportedly to
help with the construction of a "Life Event Inventory." Reporting a
happy event was intended to induce a happy mood, whereas focusing on
an experienced sad event was intended to induce a sad mood. Partici-
pants were given 12 rain to complete their reports and were then asked
several questions about the task. Embedded among these questions was
a manipulation check question that read "How do you feel right now?"
( 1 = very bad, 9 = verygood).
Stimulus Information: The Restaurant Story
In this task participants listened to a tape recorded story entitled
"Going out for dinner." To activate the relevant script for all partici-
pants, the recording started with the title followed by a short break of
about 3 s. The story was almost completely based on materials that had
successfully been used by Graesser et al. (1979) to investigate script-
based processing. The story included information that was typical, atyp-
ical, or irrelevant with respect to participants' restaurant script.
After listening to the tape, participants answered several questions
about the presentation of the story (e.g., about the quality of the tape
recording, about the speaker's voice, etc.). The questions were designed
to make participants believe that the task involving the restaurant story
was completed in order to suppress a possible elaboration of the story
after presentation. Therefore none of the questions referred to the
content of the presented story.
ticipants rely on the activated script only while encoding or while work-
ing on the recognition task.
Participants worked for 12 min on a filler task, which required them
to rate various geometrical figures in regard to their similarity or dis-
similarity. As in one of the two timing conditions, this task should en-
sure that the mood differences induced before encoding had dissipated
before the recognition task. Participants' moods were assessed after this
task on the same scale described above.
Timing of Mood Induction
The order in which the mood induction task and the filler task were
presented was counterbalanced to induce happy or sad moods either
before message encoding or before the recognition task. Because partic-
ipants spent the same amount of time on the filler and the mood induc-
tion task ( 12 min), there was the same interval between encoding and
retrieval for all participants. This procedure should ensure that mood
was either present at encoding but not at recognition, or vice versa. This
general procedure has been successfully used in other studies (see Bless
et al., 1992).
Dependent Variables: The Recognition Task
Participants sat in front of a PC, were presented with 30 items, and
were asked to indicate for each item whether it had been included in the
tape recorded story. The items appeared one at a time, and participants
answered by pressing a "yes" or a "no" response key on the keyboard.
Participants had been familiarized with use of these keys before any
experimental manipulation, in the beginning of the session. After each
response, participants were asked to indicate how sure they were about
their answer on a scale that ranged from 1 (not sure at all) to 9 (very
sure), Responses and response latencies were automatically recorded
by the computer.
One third of the items in the recognition task were typical, one third
were atypical, and one third were unrelated to the script about "going
out for dinner.'" Half of the items had been included in the tape recorded
story, and half of the items had not been included.
Results and Discussion
Effectiveness of Mood Manipulation
Participants' ratings of how happy or sad they felt after the
mood induction task indicated that the mood manipulation
had been successful, Participants who had described a positive
life event reported being in a better mood than participants who
had described a negative life event (M = 7.1 vs. M = 5.4), F( 1,
78) = 16.19, p < .001, and this effect was independent of
whether the mood induction occurred prior to the presentation
of the restaurant story or prior to the recognition task (F < 1 ).
As expected, no mood differences were obtained after partic-
ipants worked on the filler task (which was designed to elimi-
nate further mood effects), independent of whether the fill~r
task preceded the restaurant story or preceded the recognition
task. For all mood comparisons after the filler task, F < 1.
We had hypothesized that happy participants would be more
likely than sad participants to believe that a typical item had
been originally presented on the tape. This tendency to judge an
item as having been presented was not expected for atypical
and unrelated items. We therefore computed the percentage of
MOOD AND SCRIPTS
"yes" responses for each participant and analyzed the three
types of items separately in a 2 (mood) X 2 (order of
presentation) factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA).
As expected, happy participants were more likely to judge a
typical item as having been previously presented than were sad
participants (Ms = 67.0% vs. 57.9% "yes" responses), F( 1, 78)
= 5.64, p < .02. More detailed analyses revealed that this effect
was more pronounced for items that had not been presented
(Ms = 58.2 vs. 45.2), F( 1, 78) = 8.14, p < .01, than for pre-
sented items, (Ms = 75.8 vs. 70.8), F( 1, 78) = 1.27, ns. No
interaction with the order of mood induction was revealed for
any of these analyses (all Fs < 1 ).
These findings support the assumption that happy individu-
als are more likely to rely on general knowledge structures than
are sad individuals. Presumably, by relying on their script,
happy participants inferred that the typical information had
previously been presented. This resulted in correct responses if
the item had been presented but also in a higher number of
intrusions if the item had not been presented.
Note that reconstructive processes based on the script may
influence presented as well as not-presented typical items,
whereas elaborating the specifics can affect only presented
items. Thus, not-presented items may be more sensitive for cap-
turing the impact of script-based processing, and presented
items may be more sensitive for capturing the amount of atten-
tion devoted to specific information. This may account for the
smaller differences for the presented than for the not-presented
items. We assume that the sensitivity of presented items should
increase with the amount of the specific information (see also
footnote 2, and Experiment 2).
The absence of any interaction of mood and order suggests
that the observed pattern is not due to different mood states
eliciting different response tendencies. If this had been the case,
mood effects should have been more pronounced if mood was
induced prior to recognition than if mood was induced prior to
encoding. However, the absence of any interaction suggests that
mood-dependent reliance on the script influenced encoding as
well as recognition.
A complementary picture emerged for the other types of
items. The recognition for atypical items was not affected by
happy orsad mood (Ms = 46.0 vs. 43.8, F < 1 ) or order(F < 1 ).
Similarly, the recognition of unrelated items was not affected by
happy or sad mood (Ms = 50.9 vs. 48.5), F( 1, 78) = 1.54, p <
.21. The absence of any effect held also when presented and not-
presented items were analyzed separately (all ps > .22 ), with a
high degree of overall correct responses ("yes" responses for
presented atypical and unrelated items were 84.4% and 92.8%,
and "yes" responses for not-presented atypical and unrelated
items were 5.6% and 6.8%).
Note that an accurate recall of atypical or unrelated items
requires a considerable amount of processing. Thus, the high
accuracy independent of participants' mood suggests that all
participants were sufficiently able and willing to elaborate on
the information that was not part of the script.
Finally, treating typical, atypical, and unrelated items as
three levels of a repeated measures analysis resulted in a mar-
ginally significant interaction with mood, F(2, 160) = 2.37, p <
.09, as would be expected on the basis of the reported analyses.
Latencies and Confidence Ratings
The analyses of the response latencies revealed no effect of
the experimental conditions ( all ps > .30). Overall, participants
were highly confident about their recognition judgments. Ex-
perimental conditions, however, did not affect participants" con-
fidence (all ps >. 15).
In combination, the obtained findings support the assump-
tion that happy individuals are more likely than sad individuals
to rely on global knowledge structures. Although this notion has
also been suggested in the domain of stereotyping (Bless et al.,
in press; Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Siisser, 1994) and persuasion
(Bless et al., 1992), the present findings go beyond these studies
in two respects.
First, the present study provides evidence for the interplay of
mood and scripts, a form of general knowledge structure that
has so far received little attention in the domain of affect and
cognition. Second, the present study focuses on memory as-
peers, whereas the previous studies have concentrated on judg-
ments as the main dependent variable.
Although the findings of Experiment 1 strongly suggest that
mood may influence reliance on scripts, they are less conclusive
about the underlying mediating processes. Indirect evidence
may be derived from the finding that a rather high accuracy was
observed for the atypical and unrelated items, independent of
participants' mood. An accurate recall of atypical and unre-
lated items cannot be due to reconstructive processes that are
based on prior generic knowledge. Therefore, their recall re-
quires cognitive effort during encoding. The high levels of accu-
racy suggests that happy participants elaborated sufficiently on
these items, which were mostly not essential for understanding
the story. The conclusion that happy participants were willing
and able to spend cognitive effort on these items seems difficult
to reconcile with the notion that happy mood reduces process-
ing motivation or processing capacity.
In addition, a reduced amount of processing under happy
mood presumably should have had more impact on the encod-
ing than on the retrieval task, which was empirically not the
case, as indicated by the absence of any interaction of mood and
order for the presented items. Therefore, the data seem more
compatible with the mood-and-general-knowledge assumption,
which suggests that happy mood increases, and sad mood de-
creases, reliance on generic knowledge structures without im-
plying that decreased processing resources or motivation among
happy-mood participants is causing the effect.
However, the evidence for this conclusion is rather indirect,
and one could argue that the recognition task was too easy. In
that case, the mood-independent high-accuracy data for the
atypical and unrelated items would reflect a ceiling effect rather
than evidence for the mood-and-general-knowledge assump-
tion. We conducted Experiment 2 to investigate the reliability
of the findings of Experiment 1 and to obtain more direct evi-
dence for the underlying processes.
The findings of Experiment 1 indicate that happy individuals
are more likely than sad individuals to rely on available scripts,
670 BLESS ET AL.
reduces processing motivation
or processing capacity
increased reliance on
general knowledge structures
happy increased reliance on simplified
mood general knowledge structures processing
Figure 1. Two alternative processes mediating the impact of mood on the use of general knowledge
thus supporting recent studies on the link between mood and
general knowledge structures in other domains (e.g. Boden-
hausen, Kramer, & Siisser, 1994). Two different approaches
could account for the available evidence. First, it has been ar-
gued that happy individuals simplify cognitive processes; in the
following discussion we do not differentiate whether happy
mood reduces processing motivation (Schwarz, 1990; Wegener
et al., 1995) or processing capacity (Mackie & Worth, 1989).
Because general knowledge structures often allow efficient and
parsimonious processing, they can contribute to a simplifica-
tion of processing. From this perspective, reliance on general
knowledge structures is a consequence of the reduced elabora-
tion of happy-mood participants, as characterized in Alterna-
tive A of Figure 1.
Second, according to the suggested mood-and-general-
knowledge assumption, happy individuals rely on general
knowledge structures. In contrast to the first approach, no as-
sumptions about mood directly influencing the amount of pro-
cessing are made. Because general knowledge structures often
allow efficient and parsimonious processing, happy moods will
lead to a more parsimonious processing than sad mood in many
situations. Thus, from this perspective, happy individuals" reli-
ance on general knowledge structure is considered an anteced-
ent of simplified processing, as shown in Alternative B of Fig-
The two accounts thus differ with respect to what follows
from what. Does reliance on general knowledge structures re-
sult from reduced capacity or motivation, or does simplified
processing result from reliance on general knowledge struc-
tures? One way to disentangle these possibilities is to assess the
cognitive effort individuals are willing or able to spend in a dual-
task paradigm (see Navon & Gopher, 1979).
In the dual-task paradigm, participants work simultaneously
on two tasks, with one often being the primary task and the
other the secondary task. It is assumed that efficient processing
of one task enables individuals to allocate more resources to the
other task, resulting in improved performance on that task. The
dual-task paradigm has already been used to investigate
whether relying on general knowledge structures allows individ-
uals to allocate resources to the other task. For example, Macrae
and his colleagues (Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen, 1994)
asked participants to form an impression about a person based
on a list of adjectives. While performing this task, half of the
participants worked on a second task. Prior activation of a cate-
gory label resulted in a better recall of adjectives that were con-
sistent with the label but had no impact on inconsistent or irrel-
evant adjectives. Most important, the activation of the category
label led to better performance on the second task. Presumably,
the category label allowed simplified processing of the consis-
tent items, enabling individuals to allocate additional resources
on the second task.
The two approaches discussed above (Alternatives A and B)
have different implications with respect to performance on a
secondary task in a dual-task paradigm. If happy participants'
reliance on general knowledge structures is due to motivational
or capacity constraints (Alternative A), these constraints
should also influence the second task. Thus, happy individuals
should show poorer performance on the secondary task than
A different prediction results from the mood-and-general-
knowledge assumption. Given that no assumptions about
mood-dependent differences in processing motivation or pro-
cessing capacity are made, happy participants' reliance on gen-
eral knowledge structures should free additional resources rela-
tive to sad participants, who are less likely to rely on general
knowledge structures. These resources can then be allocated to
another task, so happy individuals should show better perfor-
mance on a secondary task.
It is important not to overlook a potential caveat in evaluating
the two alternatives. Superior secondary task performance by
happy participants could also be explained by a motivational or
capacity deficit hypothesis, which assumes that the amount of
cognitive resources freed up by the script-based processing was
greater than their deficit caused by happy mood. That inter-
pretation, however, necessarily requires (a) that the secondary
task captures motivational and capacity differences and (b) that
happy individuals should show poorer performance when the
"secondary" task is the only task.
MOOD AND SCRIPTS 671
To investigate these considerations we presented participants
in different affective states with information about familiar ac-
tivities and assessed recognition after a delay, as in Experiment
1. However, we changed the approach of Experiment 1 in vari-
ous aspects. First, in Experiment 2 we focused solely on mood
influences on encoding. Second, we added a neutral-mood con-
dition. Third, we made recognition more difficult by increasing
the amount of information presented. Fourth, and most impor-
tant, while participants were encoding the information they
were also working on a secondary task.
We expected to replicate the recognition pattern of Experi-
ment 1. Because happy participants are assumed to rely more
on general knowledge structures, they should have a greater ten-
dency to judge typical, but not atypical, items as having been
On the secondary task, happy participants should show
poorer performance s than sad participants if happy partici-
pants' reliance on general knowledge structures is mediated by
reduced processing motivation or capacity. In contrast, if happy
participants' reliance on general knowledge is not mediated by
a decrease in the amount of processing, they should perform
better than sad participants on the secondary task. (As noted
above, the evaluation of the secondary task performance de-
pends on how this task is affected by mood when it is presented
as the only task.)
Participants, Design, and Procedure
Sixty-one students of the University of Heidelberg (Heidelberg,
Germany) received DM 5 (approximately $3) for their participation
and were randomly assigned to the happy, neutral, or sad mood condi-
tion. Participants were run in groups of up to 5 and were informed that
they would be working on different independent tasks. They were told
that within the session they would be watching two video clips and that
they would work on one of the tasks several times. They also were in-
formed that after some of the tasks they would be asked several standard
questions about the task situation. The sequence of the various tasks
(described below ) is listed in the Appendix.
After receiving this general information, participants were given in-
structions for the secondary task. We refer to this task as the d2 task
(described below). To familiarize participants with this task, and to get
an initial baseline, we had participants work on the d2 task prior to any
manipulation. Then participants were presented with the first video clip
(depending on the mood condition). After an assessment of mood, par-
ticipants worked again on the d2 task. Next, the dual-task situation was
described. Participants were told that they were going to hear two tape-
recorded stories and that while listening they would be working on a
second task, the already-known d2 task.
Because at this point several minutes had passed since the mood in-
duction, we wanted to reinduce mood. The experimenter pretended to
have some problems with getting the tape recordings started and sug-
gested that during the delay participants should watch another video
clip. Participants watched a second video clip of the same mood valence
they had seen before. After assessing mood, we had participants listen
to the tape recording of the story and simultaneously work on the second
task. After a filler task, participants' moods were assessed prior to the
recognition task. Finally, all participants were debriefed.
The Secondary Task: d2
After receiving the general instructions, participants were told that
within this session they would be working on one task several times.
The experimenter provided participants with instruction sheets for that
task. The task was the d2 test, a standardized test for measuring concen-
tration (Brickenkamp, 1975). In this task, participants are provided
with a work sheet on which several rows of the letters d and p are ar-
ranged in random order. The letters are presented with one, two, three,
or four dashes, and respondents are asked to mark every d that has two
dashes. The experimenter made sure that all participants had un-
derstood the instructions and started an initial trial that later served as
a within-subjects baseline.
The d2 task was administered two more times within the session.
After the first mood induction, participants again worked on the d2 as
their only task. This allowed us to assess mood effects on the d2 perfor-
mance that were independent of other co-occurring tasks. As discussed
above, the performance on the d2 task in this situation has important
implications for the interpretation of Alternatives A and B. Finally, the
d2 task was part of the dual-task situation described below.
The experimenter told participants that she was pretesting brief video
clips for use in a future study. Participants were told that within the
session two clips would be presented, and after each clip they would
answer some questions about it. The first clip was presented prior to
administration of the d2 as the only task, and the second clip of the same
valence was presented prior to the dual-task situation. In the positive
mood conditions, participants saw sequences from the movies "Dead
Poets Society" and "Flashdance". In the sad mood condition, sequences
were taken from "Der Liebe Verfallen" and "Cry for Freedom". In the
neutral mood condition, participants saw two documentaries: one on
"Roman History" and one on "Arts of the 19th Century".
All sequences had been pretested for valence, and each lasted for
about 4.5 min. After watching a video, participants were asked several
questions, among them an item that served as a check on the effective-
ness of the mood manipulations. Participants responded to the question
"How do you feel now?" by checking an 11-point rating scale anchored
by 1 (sad) and I ! (happy).
Stimulus Information and the Dual- Task Situation
Participants were informed that they would be listening to two tal~-
recorded stories. They were told that while listening they should also
work on a second task, the d2. The experimenter explained thoroughly
that the primary, more important task was listening to the tape record-
ings, because later there would be a number of questions about that
information. Participants were told to consider the d2 the secondary
After checking that all participants had understood these instruc-
tions, the experimenter claimed to have problems getting the tape re-
cordings started. She explained that, to save time, she would now pres-
oat the second video clip that had been scheduled for a later part of the
experiment. After the presentation of the video clip (described above),
participants listened to the tape recording and worked simultaneously
on the d2 task.
The two stories on the tape recording contained activities that were
familiar to participants. The first story was about "A ride on a tram-
way", and the second story was about "A telephone call from a public
telephone booth". Both stories started with the title and comprised ac-
tions that were either typical or atypical 4 with respect to participants'
script. The typicality of the information had been extensively pretested.
4 In the pretest, participants judged items for their typicality with re-
spect to the script. Because the ratings for atypical and irrelevant items
did not differ, we combined all items that were not related to the script
into the atypical category.
672 BLESS ET AL.
After completing the dual-task part of the experiment, participants
were provided with a filler task requiring them to rate various geomet-
rical figures with respect to their similarity or dissimilarity. The filler
task was designed to inhibit rehearsal of the presented information. Be-
cause it should also ensure that the mood differences induced prior to
encoding had dissipated prior to the recognition task, participants'
moods were assessed again after the filler task.
Recognition. As in Experiment 1, participants were presented with
one item at a time and were asked to indicate whether the item had been
included in the tape-recorded story. Participants used "yes" or "no"
response keys on a computer keyboard to record their answers. Re-
sponses and response latencies were automatically recorded.
Twenty typical and t 6 atypical items were presented; half of the items
had been included in the tape recorded story, and the other half had not
been included. Participants were informed that the first half of the items
referred to the "tramway ride" story. After half of the items were pre-
sented, participants read on the computer screen that the following
items would refer to the "telephone call" story.
Performance on secondary (d2) task. According to the d2 test man-
ual ( Brickenkamp, 1975 ), various scores can be computed: ( a ) the total
number of items worked on, (b) number of items correctly marked, (c)
number of misses, (d) number of items marked incorrectly, and (e) a
summary score resulting from (a) - (c) - (d).
Effectiveness of Mood Manipulation
Mood was assessed three times and, as expected, significant
mood differences were obtained after the videos but not after
the filler task. After the first video, participants who had seen
the happy video reported more positive feelings ( M = 8.9) than
participants in the neutral mood (M = 7.6) or sad mood condi-
tions (3~[ = 7.2), F(2, 58) = 3.82, p < .03. Happy participants
differed from sad ones, t(58 ) = 2.68, p < .0 l, and from neutral
participants, t(58) = 1.88, p < .07, but neutral and sad partici-
pants did not differ reliably (t < 1 ).
Similar results were revealed for participants' moods assessed
after the second video (happy, neutral, and sad Ms = 9.0, 7.7,
6.4, respectively). The happy mood condition differed from the
sad mood condition, t(58) = 3.86, p < .01; and the neutral
mood condition, t(58) = 1,80, p < .08; and the neutral mood
condition differed from the sad mood condition, t(58) = 1.81,
p < .08. Finally, no mood differences were detectable after the
filler task but prior to the recognition task (Ms = 7.7, 7.6, 7.3
for the happy, sad, and neutral mood conditions, respectively,
In sum, different mood states were successfully induced be-
fore participants worked on the d2 as the only task and before
the dual-task situation. As expected, the mood differences were
eliminated prior to the recognition task.
We expected to replicate the pattern obtained for Experiment
l, according to which happy participants were more likely than
sad participants to believe that typical items had been originally
Percentage of Yes Responses as a Function of Mood, Typicality
of Items, and Prior Presentation, Experiment 2
Items Happy Neutral Sad
6 t .8
Note. Higher numbers imply higher accuracy for the presented items
and lower accuracy for the items not presented. No accuracy can be
inferred from the combined overall percentage.
presented on the tape. Again, this tendency to judge items as
having been presented was not expected for atypical items. We
therefore computed the percentage of "'yes" responses for each
participant and analyzed the two types of items separately with
one-way ANOVAs that compared happy, neutral, and sad
moods. The means are presented in Table I.
As expected, happy participants were more likely to judge a
typical item as having been previously presented (M = 75.7%
"yes" responses) than were sad participants (M = 65.2%),
t(58 ) = 2.49, p < .02, with neutral mood participants falling in
between (M = 72.4), F(2, 58) = 3.25, p < .04. More detailed
analyses revealed differences between the happy and sad condi-
tions for items that had been presented (M = 88.1 vs. M =
77.4), t(58) = 2.07, p < .04, and for items that had not been
presented (M = 63.3 vs. M = 53.0), t(58) = 1.89, p < .06. In
both cases the neutral mood participants fell in between (Ms
= 82.9 and 61.8, respectively), rendering the effect for these
additional analyses across all mood conditions nonsignificant,
F(2, 58) = 2.16, p < .12, and F(2, 58) = 2.05, p < .14,
These findings replicate the pattern of Experiment I in most
respects. Most important, the data support the assumption that
happy individuals are more likely to rely on general knowledge
structures than are sad individuals. Presumably, by relying on
their script, happy participants inferred that typical informa-
tion had previously been presented. This resulted in more cor-
rect responses if the item had been presented but in a higher
number of intrusions if the item had not been presented.
As in Experiment 1, a different picture emerged for the atyp-
icalitems. Sad participants (M = 46.2) tended to be more likely
than happy (M = 37.8) or neutral mood participants (M =
39.7 ) to judge atypical items as having been presented, F(2, 58)
= 3.1 l, p < .06; sad versus happy mood: t(58) = 2.34, p < .02;
sad versus neutral mood: t(58) = 1.74, p < .09; happy versus
neutral mood: t < 1. As can be seen in Table 1, these effects
are mainly due to sad participants being more likely to judge a
presented item as presented and to happy participants being less
likely to judge a not-presented item as not presented (effects for
presented items:/:[2, 58 ] = 2.57, p < .09, and for not-presented
items F[2, 58] = 2.03, p <. 14, respectively).
MOOD AND SCRIPTS 673
Presumably, happy participants could not reconstruct the
atypical information, as this information was not part of their
script. It is conceivable that happy participants were more likely
to infer that an atypical item had not been presented, because it
was not part of their script. This possibility would result in the
observed better performance for the not-presented items and
the worse performance for the presented items.
Finally, treating typical and atypical items as two levels of a
within-subjects factor resulted in a significant interaction with
mood, F(2, 58) = 5.23, p < .01, as would be expected on the
basis of the reported analyses.
In sum, the recognition data support the hypothesis that
happy individuals are more likely to rely on general knowledge
structures than are sad individuals, with individuals in a neutral
mood falling in between.
As in Experiment 1, no mood-dependent effects on response
latencies were obtained (all p s > .25).
Performance on d2 Task
Only a small number of misses and incorrectly marked items
were obtained on each trial. Accordingly, the analyses focus on
the summary score computed according to the d2 test manual
(Brickenkamp, 1975 ).5 Overall, the d2 was administered three
times. Because participants worked on the first trial before any
mood manipulation, we could use their performance as a base-
line for controlling individual differences (overall M = 101.2).
On the second trial, participants worked on the d2 as the only
task after different mood states were induced. As usual, we ob-
served a considerable training effect (increase from the first to
the second trial); however, this increase in performance was in-
dependent of whether happy, neutral, or sad mood was induced
(M= 20.7 vs.M = 19.9vs. M= 17.6,F< 1).
This finding is worth noting, because little research is avail-
able that directly addresses the amount of processing under
different mood states. Because the task measures cognitive
effort, the absence of mood effects is incompatible with the no-
tion that happy but not sad individuals tend to simplify their
In the third trial, the d2 test was the secondary task that par-
ticipants performed while they listened to the tape-recorded
stories. Happy participants (M = 376.8) showed better perfor-
mance than neutral (M = 336.8) or sad mood participants (M
= 322.9), F( 1, 42) = 11.68, p < .005. Moreover, treating the d2
performances on the second and third trials as two levels of a
within-subjects factor revealed a significant interaction of mood
and trial, F(2, 58) = 4.62,p < .02. 6
This finding is compatible with the assumption that the reli-
ance of happy individuals on general knowledge structures is
not due to a reduction in processing. By relying on a script,
happy participants freed up resources that could be applied to
the secondary task, which resulted in improved performance.
If one looks solely at the findings for the third trial one would
note that the pattern would also be compatible with models that
assume reduced processing under happy moods. Because of
their simplifying of cognitive processes, happy individuals may
have spared more cognitive resources than their initial deficit
relative to sad individuals. However, if this had been the case,
the motivational or capacity deficits should have also impaired
performance when the d2 task was presented alone. The ab-
sence of such effects renders that possibility implausible.
In sum, reliance on general knowledge structures appears to
have mediated the recognition performance of happy partici-
pants and their better performance on the secondary task. Ap-
parently, the efficiency resulting from their script-based pro-
cessing allowed happy participants to allocate additional re-
sources to the second task, resulting in better performances.
The additional capacity and effort spent on the second task is
incompatible with the notion that happy moods reduce pro-
cessing motivation or processing capacity, which in turn in-
creases the reliance on general knowledge structures.
The findings of Experiments 1 and 2 suggest (a) that happy
mood increases reliance on activated schemas and (b) that this
increase is not due to reduced processing motivation or capacity
in happy moods. Instead, the findings suggest that reliance on
script-based processing frees up resources. If so, the resources
that can be spared and allocated to a secondary task should de-
pend on the extra effort required for encoding atypical informa-
tion. If happy individuals are able and willing to provide the
extra effort, their advantage on the secondary task should di-
minish as the information in the narrative that needs to be elab-
orated becomes more atypical.
As a test, we varied the amount of atypical information pre-
sented.to participants. We expected that when little atypical in-
formation is presented, secondary task performance would be
the same as in Experiment 2 but that the advantage of happy
participants would diminish when a larger amount of atypical
information is presented. This prediction assumes that happy
participants will use the resources freed up by script-based pro-
cessing to process the atypical information, leaving less avail-
able for the secondary task. Thus, when the amount of atypical
information is high, the secondary task performance of happy
participants should be reduced.
Moreover, if happy participants are able and willing to allo-
cate the resources required for the processing of atypical infor-
mation, the recognition pattern of Experiment 2 should repli-
cate independent of whether a large or a little amount of atypical
information is presented. 7
Participants, Design, and Procedure
Eighty students of the University of Heidelberg received DM 5
(approximately $3 ) for their participation and were randomly assigned
5 Performed analyses, despite the relative few errors, revealed no
mood effects for the number of misses or the number of incorrectly
6 A significant interaction of trial and mood was also obtained, when
the first trial was included in the analysis, F(4, 116) = 4.49,p < .02.
7 Of course, increasing the amount of atypical information may even-
tuaUy render a script not applicable, resulting in different predictions.
This effect is most likely if inconsistent information is provided. How-
ever, the atypical information'we provided was simply atypical but not
674 BLESS ET AL.
to the conditions ofa 2 (happy vs. sad mood) × 2 (low vs. high level of
atypical information) factorial design. The same procedures and mate-
rials as in Experiment 2 were used see also the Appendix), with one
exception, described below.
Half of the participants were provided with the stories used in Exper-
iment 2 (low-atypical-information condition). The other participants
were presented with modified stories. These stories included all the in-
formation of the original stories, plus additional information that had
been pretested as atypical for those stories. As a result, the stories with
the larger amount of atypical information were longer, resulting in a
mean duration of 155 and 258 s, respectively.
Results and Discussion
Effectiveness of the Mood Manipulation
Participants' moods were assessed three times and, as ex-
pected, significant mood differences were obtained when mood
was assessed after the presentation of the videos but not when
mood was assessed after the filler task. After viewing both vid-
eos, participants who had seen the happy videos reported feel-
ing in a better mood than participants who had seen the sad
videos (M = 8.7 vs. M = 6.9), F( 1, 76) = 17.6, p < .01, after
the first video and (M = 8.9 vs. M = 6.0) F( 1, 76) = 28.3, p <
.01, after the second video. This suggests that different mood
states were successfully induced before participants worked on
the d2 as the only task, and prior to the dual-task situation, but
that these mood differences were eliminated prior to the recog-
nition task (M = 7.8 vs. M = 7.2), F( 1, 76) = 1.48, p > .22.
We expected to replicate the pattern obtained for Experiment
2, with happy participants being more likely than sad partici-
pants to report that typical but not atypical items had been orig-
inally presented on the tape. We also computed the percentage
of "yes" responses for each participant and analyzed the two
types of items separately with 2 (happy vs. sad mood) × 2 (low
vs. high level of atypical information) factorial ANOVAs. The
means are presented in Table 2.
Again, happy participants were more likely to judge typical
items as having been presented than were sad participants (M
= 73.9% vs. M = 65.1% "yes" responses), F( 1, 76) = 7.88,p <
.0 I. More detailed analyses revealed that this effect held for
items that had been presented (M = 84.8 vs. M = 78.8), F( l,
76) = 3.14, p < .08, as well as for items that had not been pre-
sented, (M= 63.0 vs. M = 51.5), F( l, 76) = 6.14, p < .05. No
effect of the amount of atypical information was expected or
observed (all ps > .25 ).
As in Experiment 2, these findings suggest that happy partic-
ipants were more likely than sad participants to rely on the ap-
plicable script, resulting in an increased tendency to judge typi-
cal items as having been presented. The absence of an effect of
the amount of atypical information indicates that happy partic-
inconsistent (e.g., in the "tram-way" story, the tram-way had to stop
temporarily because of an automobile blocking the rails).
Percentage of Yes Responses as a Function of Mood, Level
of Atypical Information, Typicality of Items,
and Prior Presentation, Experiment 3
Level of atypical information
5 I. 1
Note. Higher numbers imply higher accuracy for the presented items
and lower accuracy for the not-presented items. No accuracy can be
inferred from the combined overall percentage.
ipants relied on the script even as a larger amount of atypical
information was presented. Given that the atypical information
was not inconsistent with the script, a script-based processing
strategy could still be applied to the typical information.
For the atypical items, there was no effect of mood, regardless
of whether the percentage of "yes" responses was analyzed for
the presented, the not-presented, or all atypical items (ps
The differential pattern for typical and atypical items renders
it unlikely that the pattern obtained for typical items was due to
a general tendency for happy participants to judge items as hav-
ing been presented. The findings also suggest that happy partic-
ipants were willing and able to allocate the resources necessary
to recall atypical items.
Finally, treating typical and atypical items as two levels of a
repeated measures design resulted in a significant interaction
with mood, F( 1, 76) = 7.78, p < .01, as would be expected on
the basis of the reported analyses. In sum, the recognition data
support the hypothesis that happy individuals are more likely to
rely on general knowledge structures than are sad individuals.
Performance on the d2 Task
We expected happy participants to perform better than sad
participants on the d2 test when it was presented as a secondary
task. This advantage should be diminished when a large amount
of atypical information is presented, because script-based pro-
cessing does not facilitate the encoding of atypical information.
No mood effects were expected when the d2 was presented as
the only task.
We computed the d2 performance as in Experiment 2. Again,
no differences were obtained at baseline prior to any mood ma-
nipulation (overall M = 96.7). As before, we found a training
effect on the second trial, when the d2 was the only task, and
this effect was independent of mood (M = 16.9 vs. M = 13.2),
F(1,76) = 1.18, p > .25. Again, the absence of any mood effects
MOOD AND SCRIPTS 675
seems remarkable in itself (see Discussion section of Experi-
ment 2) and is not compatible with the assumption that happy
mood decreases processing motivation or capacity.
In contrast, participants' performances were affected by their
moods when the d2 test was the secondary task in the third trial.
Because participants worked longer on the d2 when a lot of atyp-
ical information was provided ( 155 vs. 258 s), we adjusted the d2
performance during the longer version by multiplying the actual
performance with the ratio of the different durations. In a repli-
cation of Experiment 2, happy participants' performances were
better than those of sad participants in the low-atypical-informa-
tion condition (M = 371.4 vs. M = 316.1), t(76) = 2.85, p <
.05. As expected, this difference diminished when the amount of
atypical information was increased, (M = 269.3 vs. M = 277.8,
t < 1 ), resulting in a significant interaction of mood and the
amount of atypical information, F( l, 76) = 5.68, p < .03.
In addition, participants performed better when low rather
than high amounts of atypical information were presented (M
= 345.2 vs. M = 273.8), F( l, 76) = 27.51, p < .01. This main
effect indicates that processing atypical information required
more resources than processing typical information. Finally,
treating the d2 performances on the second and third trials as
two levels of a within-subjects factor revealed a significant in-
teraction of mood, trial, and the amount of atypical informa-
tion, F( 1, 76) = 6.13, p < .02.
In combination, the observed performance on the d2 task
provides further support for our assumptions. First, when little
atypical information was presented, the findings of Experiment
2 were replicated.
Second~ the findings further support the assumption that
happy participants' advantage resulted from their reliance on
the script. When more atypical information was presented,
happy participants could spare relatively fewer resources by
their reliance on the script and consequently could allocate
fewer resources to the secondary task. As a result, happy partic-
ipants did not perform better than sad participants in the high-
Third, the differential effects observed when low versus high
levels of atypical information were included renders it unlikely
that happy participants' advantage resulted from happy partic-
ipants being simply better in divergent thinking. If this had been
the case, they should have had an advantage independent of the
amount of atypical information.
Fourth, the results are again incompatible with the assumption
that happy individuals simplified their processing because of mo-
tivational or capacity deficits and in turn spared more cognitive
resources than their initial deficit. If this had been the case, happy
participants should have shown impaired performance on the d2
task both by itself and when presented as a secondary task.
In sum, the present findings support the assumptions that
happy mood increases reliance on activated general knowledge
structures, and this does not seem to be due to the motivational
or capacity deficits of happy participants.
Mood and General Knowledge Structures
The present findings strongly support the assumption that
happy individuals are more likely to rely on general knowledge
structures than are sad individuals. Most important, the recog-
nition data indicate that happy participants were more likely to
judge items as being presented if the item was typical for the
script. This effect was not observed for items that were atypical
or unrelated to the respective scripts, or for an overall tendency
to respond "yes". Moreover, if the pattern had been due to an
overall response tendency, the effect should have been more pro-
nounced when mood was induced prior to recognition than
prior to encoding. This was not the case (Experiment 1 ).
By relying on their existing knowledge about the activities at
hand, happy participants presumably inferred that the typical
items must have been presented, whereas sad or neutral mood
participants Were less likely to do so. The assumed reconstruc-
tion process will lead participants to judge an item as having
been presented only if that item is already part of the script.
Consequently, atypical or unrelated items were not affected by
participants' moods in the same direction.
The reliability of this general conclusion is supported by the
observation that the effect was independent of variations in the
method of mood induction and in the content of the scripts.
The present findings extend previous knowledge by focusing on
memory as the main dependent variable and by investigating
the relation between mood and the .use of scripts, a form of
general knowledge structure that has so far received little atten-
tion in affect and cognition research.
The conclusion that happy individuals are more likely than
sad individuals to rely on general knowledge structures is also
consistent with findings in other domains. For example, general
knowledge structures in the form of stereotypes have been
found to have a greater impact on happy than on neutral or sad
mood participants (Bless et al., in press; Bodenhausen, Kramer,
& Siisser, 1994; Bodenhausen, Sheppard, & Kramer, 1994; Ed-
wards & Weary, 1993). Similarly, Bless and Fiedler (1995) re-
ported that specific judgments about a target person were more
strongly influenced by preceding general trait judgments about
the target when participants were in a happy mood rather than
a neutral or sad mood. Moreover, happy but not sad partici-
pants have been found to rely on a global rather than on a spe-
cific representation of a persuasive message (Bless et al., 1992).
Finally, if we consider the use of heuristics as applying general
knowledge structures to specific situations, there are numerous
findings in persuasion and other domains that suggest a higher
reliance on general knowledge structures (heuristics) under
happy moods (for overviews, see Clore et al., 1994; Isen, 1987;
Schwarz et al., 1991; Schwarz & Clore, in press).
Nisbett and Ross (1980) contended that people's inferential
errors about the world and themselves stem from the use of heu-
ristics and general knowledge structures to understand particu-
lar cases, not from emotional or motivational causes. That is,
inferential error generally involves cold rather than hot cogni-
tion. As Nisbett and Ross said, these phenomena "can be un-
derstood better as products of relatively passionless informa-
tion-processing errors" (p. 12). Although their extensive argu-
ment is sound as far as it goes, it should be noted that studies of
mood and processing, including the present one, make it evi-
dent that although the heuristics and general knowledge struc-
tures alluded to by Nisbett and Ross may themselves be pas-
sionless, their use may often have emotional causes.
676 BLESS ET AL.
What Mediates the Use of
General Knowledge Structures?
Different models have been offered to account for the differ-
ential impact of general knowledge structures under different
mood states. On the one hand, it has been argued that reliance
on general knowledge structures in positive moods results from
reduced processing capacity (Mackie & Worth, 1989) or moti-
vation (Schwarz, 1990, Wegener et al., 1995). On the other
hand, the mood-and-general-knowledge assumption holds that
happy individuals' reliance on general knowledge structures is
not a consequence but an antecedent of simplified processing
(Bless, 1994; see also Bless & Fiedler, 1995; Bless et al., in
press). The present findings strongly support this latter
Most important, happy participants showed better perfor-
mance on the secondary task in the dual-task situation than did
sad or neutral mood participants. If happy participants' reli-
ance on a script was mediated by reduced processing motiva-
tion or processing capacity, we should have observed impaired
performance on the secondary task, but happy participants
showed better performance on the secondary task. Presumably,
relying on a script contributes to efficient and parsimonious
processing, enabling happy participants to allocate additional
resources to the secondary task. That they did so indicates that
the relevant motivation and capacity were not impaired.
Although this is not a very parsimonious argument, one
could argue that positive mood does create a processing deficit
that does lead to the necessity of simplified processing through
a focus on the script but that script processing is so efficient that
it spares more cognitive resources than their deficit, resulting in
an advantage for happy participants on the secondary task. If
so, such a motivational or capacity deficit should have influ-
enced the performance on the d2 task when it was the only task
on which participants worked. Moreover, happy participants'
initial deficits should have led to impaired performance when a
larger amount of atypical information was included in the story,
but neither effect was obtained, and the pattern of findings is
therefore incompatible with the notion of reduced processing
under happy moods. Finally, if happy mood reduced cognitive
resources or motivation we should have observed poor recogni-
tion performance on the atypical and unrelated items, because
encoding these items requires cognitive effort. The mood-inde-
pendent high accuracy, however, suggests that happy partici-
pants did have sufficient resources to allocate to these items.
Could the presented findings be reconciled with the motiva-
tional assumption derived from the mood-as-information ac-
count despite the fact that we did not observe an overall ten-
dency for a reduced amount of processing under happy moods?
Given happy participants' improved performance on some
tasks, it seems unlikely that a general tendency toward a re-
duced processing motivation under happy moods may account
for the presented data.
One may apply a more confined assumption that happy
moods reduce processing specifically for some tasks. In this re-
spect it could be argued that the different tasks differentially
motivated happy participants to process the respective informa-
tion. If we assume that happy participants were motivated for
one task (d2 task) but not for the other (script task), this would
explain why they did not show an impaired d2 performance on
the one hand but were more likely to rely on the script on the
other hand. For various empirical and conceptual reasons, we
believe that such a reconciliation is not viable.
Happy participants did not only do equally well on the d2
task, but they actually outperformed sad participants. This pat-
tern is nicely compatible with the present general knowledge
assumption, as reliance on general knowledge structures may
save processing resources that can be allocated toward another
task. If, however, the different tasks elicited different processing
motivations, we should have also observed happy participants
outperform sad participants when the d2 task was presented as
the only task, which was empirically not the case. From our
perspective, the assumption that happy moods reduce process-
ing motivation offers no explanation for why the amount of pro-
cessing spared on one task is transferred to another task, as in-
dicated by happy participants' better performance on the d2
Note that assuming differential processing motivation for
different tasks would require a specification of the tasks for
which individuals are and are not motivated. For the present
studies, this specification cannot be based on individuals' cur-
rent affective states per se. If--as in the present studies--both
tasks are simultaneously presented in the same situation, indi-
viduals' affective states are constant and should therefore result
in similar implications. This latter argument becomes even
more apparent with respect to the recall data. These results
show that happy participants were also motivated to process
the information provided in the script task. Their recall of the
atypical information reflected learning equal to that of sad par-
ticipants. Hence, the only finding left that may potentially re-
flect a reduced processing motivation under happy moods is the
script-based processing of the typical information. To account
for the observed set of findings, one would have to assume not
only different processing motivations for different tasks but also
different processing motivations within one task (typical vs.
atypical information). As this cumbersome discussion indi-
cates, the present findings are difficult to reconcile with the as-
sumption that moods may influence processing motivation in
some general way.
In addition to the present findings, other evidence also sug-
gests that the increased reliance on general knowledge struc-
tures under happy moods is not necessarily due to a reduced
amount of processing. For example, Bless and Fiedler ( 1995 )
found an increased impact of global trait judgments on specific
judgments observed under happy mood. On the basis of analy-
ses of response latencies, they concluded that this increased im-
pact was not mediated by a reduced amount of processing. Sim-
ilarly, in the stereotype domain, the processing of happy partic-
ipants has been shown to be more strongly influenced by an
activated stereotype than the processing of neutral or sad mood
participants (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Siisser, 1994; Bless et
al., in press; Edwards & Weary, 1993). However, happy partici-
pants also showed the strongest impact of inconsistent individ-
uating information (Bless et al., in press). Given that the impact
of inconsistent information usually requires a considerable
amount of processing (Stangor & Duan, 1991 ), its particular
impact under happy moods suggests that happy participants
were able and willing to expend the necessary resources.
MOOD AND SCRIPTS
Moreover, as noted in the beginning of the article, several per-
suasion studies have found that the quality of the arguments
has less impact on happy than on sad participants' attitudes,
whereas direct assessments of the quality of the arguments were
independent of participants' moods (Bless et al., 1990; Worth
& Mackie, 1987). The notion that happy moods reduce the
amount of processing is again difficult to reconcile with this
pattern. On the other hand, the mood-and-general-knowledge
assumption may account for this pattern if we assume that
happy participants could rely on general knowledge structures
in making attitude judgments but drew on more specific infor-
mation in evaluating the quality of arguments.
In sum, there is considerable evidence that questions the no-
tion that happy individuals rely more on their general knowl-
edge structures than sad individuals because happy mood re-
duces cognitive capacity or processing motivation. Given that
the mood-and-general-knowledge assumption does not require
this assumption, it provides a parsimonious alternative account
for a large number of findings.
The Mood-and-General-Knowledge Assumption
In light of the reviewed inconsistencies and the supportive
present findings, we propose that the assumption that moods
influence reliance on general knowledge structures provides a
fruitful perspective for conceptualizing the impact of moods on
processing strategies. As in our previous theorizing (Schwarz,
1990; Schwarz & Bless, 1991; Sehwarz & Clore, 1983, 1988, in
press), we assume that individuals' affective states inform them
about the nature of the current situation. Whereas positive
affective states signal a benign and unproblematic situation,
negative affective states indicate that the situation is problem-
atic and is characterized by a lack of positive outcomes or a
threat of negative outcomes.
The information that the current situation is problematic im-
plies that it is necessary to attend to specifics of the situation,
whereas the information that the current situation is unprob-
lematic implies that it is possible to rely on one's general knowl-
edge structures, which usually serve one well. Accordingly,
happy individuals, whose moods signal a benign situation, may
feel confident 8 to base their processing on activated general
knowledge structures---which results in a simplified processing
as long as the specific information matches the activated knowl-
edge structure. In contrast, sad individuals focus on the specifics
of the situation, reflecting that their mood signals a problematic
situation that renders it risky to rely on one's default routines.
As discussed above, for various reasons such a mechanism
would be highly adaptive for individuals because it directs the
attention to that information that is presumably most useful for
dealing with the current situation.
Although these assumptions imply that positive affective
states should increase, and negative affective states should de-
crease, reliance on general knowledge structures, the effects
elicited by the valence of mood can be overridden by other fac-
tors. For example, increasing individuals' processing motiva-
tion or increasing their processing capacity may decrease reli-
ance on general knowledge structures independent of individu-
als' mood (see Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Kruglanski, 1989, for
overviews). Depending on the relative contributions of the
affective state and processing motivation and capacity, mood
effects may not always be observable, as noted in studies that
manipulated participants' processing motivation or processing
capacity in addition to their mood (e.g., Bless et al., 1990; Bo-
denhausen, Kramer, & Siisser, 1994; Mackie & Worth, 1989).
Similarly, an increased reliance on general knowledge struc-
tures can also result from individuals' arousal levels being either
very low (e.g. Bodenhausen, 1990) or very high (Kim & Baron,
1988; see also Broadbent, 1971; Hasher & Zacks, 1979). Be-
cause affective states may differ with respect to the associated
level of arousal, the valence of the affective state may not be the
only determinant of the use of general knowledge structures.
For example, evidence by Bodenhausen, Sheppard, and Kramer
(1994) suggests that sad participants were less influenced, and
angry participants were more influenced, by an activated ste-
reotype compared to neutral mood participants.
Finally, we note that the assumption that happy moods in-
crease reliance on general knowledge structures may also ac-
count for the increase in creativity that has been observed under
happy mood (see Isen, 1987 ). It is interesting that, in addition
to allowing more efficient processing, general knowledge struc-
tures serve a second function, namely to enrich the stimulus
information at hand and to provide a basis for making infer-
ences that go beyond the information given (Bruner, 1957). Ge-
neric schematic knowledge can be applied creatively when a
new specific situation is encountered. Thus, in dealing with a
specific task, individuals may draw inferences and generate new
concepts based on their prior general knowledge. This aspect of
general knowledge structures may help us understand why
happy individuals may rely on heuristics on the one hand but
show improved performances on problem solving and creativity
tasks on the other hand (Isen, 1987 ).
s Note that the differential confidence in the reliance on general
knowledge structures is not the same as the confidence in the judgment.
Thus, sad individuals may be as confident in their judgment as happy
individuals--or even more--because they elaborated on the specific
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MOOD AND SCRIPTS 679 Download full-text
Procedure of Experiment 2
0. General instructions
1. Instruction and first assessment of secondary
2. Mood induction 1/assessment of mood
3. Assessment of secondary task performance
4. Instruction for dual-task situation
5. Mood induction 2/assessment of mood
6. Dual-task situation
7. Filler task/assessment of mood
8. Recognition task
Received December 29, 1995
Revision received April 2, 1996
Accepted April 12, 1996 •
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