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Irrelevant thoughts, emotional mood states, and cognitive task performance

Abstract

In two experiments, we investigated the relationship shared by irrelevant thoughts, emotional mood states, and cognitive task performance. At an empirical level, irrelevant thoughts were defined as thoughts that did not facilitatesuccessful task performance. We used the same general procedure for both experiments: three groups of college students received happy-, neutral- (control), or sad-mood inductions and performed a memory task. The procedure for obtaining thoughts varied between experiments. The subjects in Experiment 1 listed their thoughts after the memory recall task. In Experiment 2, the subjects were tape-recorded while performing a memory task and producing concurrent verbal protocols. The subjects in both experiments then judged their thoughts in terms of frequency, intensity,and irrelevance. Wefound a similar pattern of results in both experiments: (1) The proportions ofirrelevant thoughts and recall performance were -negatively related, and (2) happy and sad studentsproduced reliably greater proportions of irrelevant thoughts than did neutral (control) students.

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This research was conducted at the University of New Mexico under the direction of Henry C. Ellis in partial fulfillment ofthe requirements for Pennie Seibert’s doctoral degree.

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Seibert, P.S., Ellis, H.C. Irrelevant thoughts, emotional mood states, and cognitive task performance. Memory & Cognition 19, 507–513 (1991). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03199574

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03199574

Keywords

  • Mood State
  • Mood Induction
  • Neutral Group
  • Cognitive Task Performance
  • Portfolio Assessment