Mood Can Significantly Impact Memory-Based Decisions

by Aruna on Sep 24 2009 9:37 AM

Researchers say that deciding on whether to return to a restaurant often depends upon the mood you had on the earlier visit to the place.

The team from University of Maryland and Yale University has shown that mood has a significant impact on memory-based decisions.

"Suppose that last week you went to a restaurant and consumed a well-prepared meal. Further imagine that you went into the restaurant either in a good or bad mood, perhaps because it was a rainy or sunny day," wrote authors Anastasiya Pocheptsova from University of Maryland and Nathan Novemsky from Yale University.

"A week later, would you be more likely to praise the restaurant or return to it if your earlier experience happened on a sunny day?" they added.

The researchers found that "incidental mood" is generally not incorporated into memory-based judgments made after the mood has passed.

In other words, a person's memory of the restaurant's food won't be affected by the mood he/she were in when they ate it.

However, this changes if the mood effects are "locked in"-for example, if you respond to a question about how much you are enjoying the meal.

During the study, the researchers examined the effect of participants' moods on their evaluations of a painting.

A negative mood was induced in some participants by having them read a story and answer questions about inhumane treatment of pregnant horses. Then half of the participants were asked to provide "real-time evaluations" of the painting while others just went home.

After five days, all participants were contacted via email and asked to rate how much they would enjoy having a poster of the painting in their homes.

The study showed that those in a negative mood rated the painting lower in real time, while participants who did not make a real-time evaluation showed no effect of mood at the later time.

"People use their beliefs about the effect of incidental mood to adjust their judgments in an attempt to remove an unwanted influence," wrote the authors.

"To summarize, going to a restaurant on a rainy day would only affect one's decision to visit it next time if one made a real-time evaluation of the meal," they added.

The study appears in Journal of Consumer Research.