Affective Expectations and Information Gain: Evidence for Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Affective Experience
ABSTRACT According to the Affective Expectation Model (Wilson, Lisle, Kraft, & Wetzel, 1989), affect is formed with reference to a prior expectation. The model predicts that people's affective reactions to a stimulus are generally assimilated to a prior expectation, except in cases when a discrepancy between the affective expectation and the actual stimulus information exists and is noticed. In such cases, affective reactions are expected to be contrasted away from affective expectations. In the present study, both the assimilation and contrast predictions were tested using the unitization paradigm (Newtson, 1973). We predicted that observers who unitized a not-so-funny film clip at a gross level (thereby extracting a relatively small amount of stimulus information) would assimilate their affective reactions to a prior positive expectation, whereas those who unitized the film clip at a fine level (thereby extracting a relatively large amount of stimulus information) would contrast their affective reactions with the positive expectation. The results supported these predictions, thereby providing the first evidence that affective expectations can produce both assimilation and contrast effects in affective experience.
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ABSTRACT: High-pain expectancy increases pain and pain-related brain activity, creating a cycle of psychologically maintained pain. Though these effects are robust, little is known about how expectancy works and what psychological processes either support or mitigate its effects. To address this, we independently manipulated pain expectancy and "top-down" attention to the body, and examined their effects on both a performance-based measure of body-focus and heat-induced pain. Multi-level mediation analyses showed that high-pain expectancy substantially increased pain, replicating previous work. However, attention to the body reduced pain, partially suppressing the effects of expectancy. Furthermore, increased body-focus had larger pain-reducing effects when pain expectancy was high, suggesting that attempts to focus on external distractors are counterproductive in this situation. Overall, the results show that attention to the body cannot explain pain-enhancing expectancy effects, and that focusing on sensory/discriminative aspects of pain might be a useful pain-regulation strategy when severe pain is expected.PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(6):e38854. · 4.09 Impact Factor