, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 123-134

Positive Affect and Flexibility: Overcoming the Precedence of Global over Local Processing of Visual Information

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Abstract

Previous findings on the relationship between positive mood and global processing are often based on visual matching tasks that involve a choice between global and local strategies. Preferences for global processing in positive mood, however, do not imply a reduced ability to process locally. The present experiment tested the assumption that positive affect increases flexibility in cognitive processing as indicated by the ability to overcome global precedence, and to respond rapidly to non-dominant (local) features when the task necessitates it. Consistent with expectations, participants responded significantly faster to local targets after positive compared to neutral and negative prime words. The typical precedence of global over local processing observed after neutral and negative prime words was reversed after positive prime words. Findings support the assumption that positive affect increases cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, findings suggest that mood-related preferences in global versus local processing cannot be generalized to processing ability.