Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 458–466 | Cite as

Too busy to feel neutral: Reducing cognitive resources attenuates neutral affective states

  • Karen GasperEmail author
  • Joy Hackenbracht
Original Paper


Researchers often assume that neutral affect is a relatively affectless state, in that it is low in intensity and requires little, if any, cognitive resources to be maintained. In contrast to these assumptions, we examined the hypothesis that reducing one’s cognitive resources would lessen neutral affective experiences. Respondents (1) viewed negative, neutral, or positive photos, (2) completed a task that was or was not cognitively demanding, and (3) rated their negative, neutral, and positive feelings. As predicted, reducing people’s cognitive resources lessened their neutral affect after viewing neutral stimuli, lessened their negative affect after viewing negative stimuli, but did not affect their positive affect after viewing positive stimuli. Contrasting prior assumptions regarding neutral affect, these findings suggest that neutral states possess felt intensity and require cognitive resources to be maintained.


Neutral affect Affect regulation Cognitive depletion Cognitive resources Working memory 



We would like to Zane Adam Patalive, Dian Zhuang, Jessica Sopp and Ashley Przywitowski for their help with data collection. This research was support by a Grant from the National Science Foundation under Grant (0952848).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Fors Marsh Group LLCArlingtonUSA

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