Sad and Guilty? Affective Influences on the Explanation of Conflict in Close Relationships

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Abstract

What is the role of mood in the way people explain interpersonal conflicts in their close relationships? On the basis of the multiprocess Affect Infusion Model (AIM) of judgments (J. P. Forgas, 1992a, in press), 3 experiments found a nonobvious pattern of greater mood effects on attributions for serious rather than simple conflicts. In Experiment 1, sad Ss blamed themselves more for conflicts than did happy Ss. Experiment 2 found that in a field setting, sad persons attributed real-life conflicts more to internal, stable, and global causes and did so more for serious than for simple conflicts. Experiment 3 replicated these findings in the laboratory and also produced reaction time data showing that it was the longer processing recruited by more serious conflicts that accentuated these affect-priming effects, as predicted by the AIM. The cognitive mechanisms linking affect and judgments are discussed, and the role of moods in everyday explanations of conflict is considered.

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