A Flexible Influence of Affective Feelings on Creative and Analytic Performance

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Considerable research shows that positive affect improves performance on creative tasks and negative affect improves performance on analytic tasks. The present research entertained the idea that affective feelings have flexible, rather than fixed, effects on cognitive performance. Consistent with the idea that positive and negative affect signal the value of accessible processing inclinations, the influence of affective feelings on performance on analytic or creative tasks was found to be flexibly responsive to the relative accessibility of different styles of processing (i.e., heuristic vs. systematic, global vs. local). When a global processing orientation was accessible happy participants generated more creative uses for a brick (Experiment 1), successfully solved more remote associates and insight problems (Experiment 2) and displayed broader categorization (Experiment 3) than those in sad moods. When a local processing orientation was accessible this pattern reversed. When a heuristic processing style was accessible happy participants were more likely to commit the conjunction fallacy (Experiment 3) and showed less pronounced anchoring effects (Experiment 4) than sad participants. When a systematic processing style was accessible this pattern reversed. Implications of these results for relevant affect-cognition models are discussed.

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