EMOTION & ATTRIBUTIONS

Misattribution of Emotions Some psychologists have suggested there is a special link between aggression and sexual attraction. However, people's use of attributions can be used to create an alternative explanation for the connection between aggression and sexual attraction. The idea is that rather than there being something special about aggression that associates it with sexual attraction any emotion can be associated with sexual attraction. That is, any emotion that increases an individual's arousal level may be interpreted by the individual as indicating sexual attraction. This idea was tested by putting people in a situation that made them somewhat anxious, so that their arousal level would be increased. The situation chosen was either on a high suspension bridge - 5' wide, 450' long, 230' above the river below - or a low wooden bridge - 10' above a stream, wider than the other bridge. Male individuals crossing these bridges were approached by either a female or male researcher, who asked them to fill out a questionnaire, which included making up a story, and gave the individuals their phone number inviting them to call if they were interested in talking further. The males interviewed by the female researcher created stories with greater sexual content and made more more calls to the researcher afterwards, if they were interviewed when crossing the high suspension bridge versus the low wooden bridge. There were differences for those interviewed by the male researcher between the two bridges. Thus, it appears that the men were interpreting their arousal from crossing the high suspension bridge as sexual attraction. This suggests that any emotion that increases arousal, not just aggression, can be associated with sexual attraction. Mood and judgment: Mood as Information This idea that people may interpret their emotions (make attributions about their emotions), and make judgments based on those interpretations (attributions) has been used in creating a theory of how mood affects judgment. Proposed by Schwarz and Clore (1983), the mood-as-information hypothesis suggests the experience of affect (a feeling or emotion) is used directly by judges as evidence of their feelings about the object of judgment. People may misattribute their current affective state to the object of judgment, which may lead them to use the affective signals from their moods when making judgments. Schwarz and Clore contacted people by telephone on either sunny or rainy days to ask them how happy and how satisfied they were with their lives. Half of the subjects were asked these questions without any reference to the weather (no attribution condition). Those subjects were happier with their lives and more satisfied on sunny days than on rainy days, as expected. The other subjects,
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however, were asked about the weather before being asked how happy and satisfied they were (attribution condition). Under these conditions, there was no effect of mood on their life satisfaction judgments. According to the mood-asinformation hypothesis, subjects did not use their mood states as a basis for their judgments when the weather was made salient as an alternative source of their feelings. In other words, asking subjects about the weather suggested to them that the affective cues they were experiencing were due to extraneous causes and should not be used in making the current judgment. According to the mood-as-information hypothesis, mood will affect judgment when the affective cues associated with the mood states are used as a source of judgment relevant information. If the affective cues from the mood state are not used as an information source, then this effect should not occur. For example, if the affective cues are interpreted as a reaction to the object of judgment, then mood should influence the judgment. However, if the affective cues are not interpreted as a reaction to the object of judgment, then mood should have no influence. Schwarz and Clore (1983) proposed that people are most likely to attribute their current mood state to the object of judgment when the situation leads them to act as if they asked themselves 'how do I feel about it?' Emotions are signals Another explanation of emotions and information processing has been stated described as this: "emotions exist for the sake of signaling states of the world that have to be responded to, or that no longer need response" (Frijda, 1988, p. 354). Feeling happy, sad, angry, etc. informs individuals about the current state of the world, and whether action is necessary. Negative emotions generally mean that something is amiss in the environment. Thus, action must be taken to rectify the situation. In order to act appropriately, one must first perform more detailed information processing with the goal of determining what sort of action to take. Regardless of whether the emotion is positive or negative, however, the emotion has processing implications informing the individual about what to do. This explanation of emotions is called cognitive tuning. Cognitive tuning suggests that the appropriate cognitive processing is cued by the present affective state. Positive affect signals that a situation is benign, whereas negative affect indicates a problem. As a result, people rely on general, heuristic processing in positive moods, while negative moods trigger more detailed, systematic processing. Thus, cognitive tuning suggests that positive emotions are cues that everything is fine, and negative emotions serve as problem representations. Therefore, negative emotions should lead to actions to try and correct the problem, and positive emotions need not lead to any action. Also, cognitive tuning suggests that positive affect focuses people on internal, subjective data, cuing the use of heuristic processing, while negative affect focuses people on external, objective data, cuing systematic processing.

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One study that supports these ideas involved having subjects produce bird names (e.g., robin, sparrow, eagle, etc.). Subjects were either in happy or sad moods, and they were either told to name birds until they had enough, or until they didn't want to produce any more names. In the "have enough" condition, sad subjects produced more names than happy subjects, and explanation is that happy subjects were more likely to feel that the number of names they had was satisfactory. It's as if subjects ask themselves "how do I feel about this number of names?" and the happy subjects feel good so they stop, while the sad subjects feel bad so they keep going. In the "still want to" condition, happy subjects produced more names than sad subjects, and explanation is that happy subjects were more likely to feel that they were enjoying the task so they did the task longer than sad subjects. It's as if subjects ask themselves "how do I feel about doing this task?" and the happy subjects feel good so they keep going, while the sad subjects feel bad so they stop. Thus, subjects' moods (happy or sad) are signaling them for how to interpret the instruction for when to stop. ATTRIBUTIONS OPTIMISM Optimists explain the events in their lives in a particular way; that is, they have a particular attributional styles. When optimists experience negative events they think "it's temporary, and it's only for this particular event, and I'm not the cause of it." When optimists experience positive events they think "it's permanent, and it's for all life events, and I'm the cause of it." Not all people are optimists. The opposite of optimism is pessimism. Pessimistic people explain their life events in the opposite manner to optimists. So, when pessimists experience negative events they think "it's permanent, and it's for all life events, and I'm the cause of it." When pessimists experience positive events they think "it's temporary, and it's only for this particular event, and I'm not the cause of it." Developed by Martin Seligman, the analysis of optimism as related to attributional theory extends the discussion made during the social development lectures by adding a 3rd dimension to the ones mentioned at that time. Those dimensions were an internal and external dimension, where the cause of an event is explained as being within oneself (internal) or outside of oneself (external), and a stable and unstable dimension, where the cause of an event is explained as being unchanging (stable) across time or changing (unstable) across time. Seligman calls those two dimensions personalization and permanence, and the third that he adds is pervasiveness, where the cause of an event is explained as being universal throughout one's life (global) or specific to a particular part of one's life (local).

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Optimists and pessimists differ in that they explain life events differently. An optimist explains the cause of GOOD life events as being stable, global and internal (e.g., I succeeded because I'm good), and the cause of BAD life events as being unstable, local and external (e.g., I failed because that assessment was only examining one part of my ability and it was too difficult). Pessimists pattern of explanations for life events is the reverse of optimists explanations, so pessimists explains the cause of BAD life events as being stable, global and internal (e.g., I failed, because I'm bad), and the cause of GOOD life events as being unstable, local and external (e.g., I succeeded, because that assessment was only examining one part of my ability and it was easy). The more pessimistic people are the more likely they are to suffer set-backs when bad things happen in their lives. Bad events will hit pessimists harder than optimists and pessimists will be suffer longer after experiencing a bad event than optimists. Selling life Insurance One job that involves quite a few set-backs is sales, because people will say "no" more often than they will say "yes" to any sales pitch, regardless of how good the salesman is. A sales job with one of the highest levels of negative responses is life insurance sales. Seligman did a study with the Metropolitan Life Insurance company. At the time, Met Life had 60,000 applicants each year for its sales force. After a screening process that involved testing and interviewing, 5,000 people were selected, and trained to be Met Life sales people. But after 1 year, 50% of them had quit. After 4 years, 80% had quit. Why do many people quit? Well, consider the job: 1 in 10 sales calls will be positive, so 9 in 10 will be negative, failures. Thus, successes are few and far between. It takes a certain type of person to handle that much failure. It takes an optimist. Optimistic insurance sales people should sell more insurance than pessimistic sales people. There's an industry test for potential to sell life insurance, which anyone who wants to sell life insurance must pass to get hired. Potential recruits to the Met Life sales force were also given attributional style questionnaires to determine if they were optimists or pessimists. As predicted, optimists outsold pessimists by 8% in the first year, and in the 2nd year the difference increased to 31%. But also, 129 people were hired who didn't quite pass the industry test - they were borderline rejections, but they clearly had optimistic attributional styles. Those people, who would not have been hired by any insurance firm because of their failing grade on the industry test, but who were extreme optimists on

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Seligman's Attributional Style Questionnaire, outsold pessimists by 21% in year 1, and by 57% in year 2. Athletics and Optimism Another area of life where failures are often encountered is sports. According to Seligman's optimism theory, there are three predictions for optimism in sports: One, all else being equal, people with more optimistic attributional styles should win more than those with pessimistic styles, and that should be especially evident after defeat. Two, that should also hold for teams, so more optimistic teams should be winning more than pessimistic teams (all else being equal). Three, when an athlete's pessimistic style is changed to an optimistic style, successes should increase. Basketball and baseball studies indicate that: • teams have measureable and meaningful attributional styles • team attributional style predicts how well the team will do over and above the team's ability • success is predicted by optimism and failure is predicted by pessimism • explanatory style seems to have its greatest effect when a team is under pressure - after a loss or late in close games In a study of university level swimmers, the swimmers' attributional styles were assessed, and over their season each swim meet performance was rated as "worse than expected" or "better than expected." Pessimistic swimmers had twice as many "worse than expected" performances as optimistic swimmers. In controlled situations, swimmers swam their best event all out, and were told their performance was below average (specific times were given), so they were given false feedback about their performance to create the impression of failure. Then, after resting for awhile, they swam the same event again. Optimistic swimmers did as well as the first time, or better. Pessimistic swimmers, however, did worse the second time, and some did considerably worse, including two of the swim team stars. Athletic coaches should be aware that: • optimism isn't something they can intuitively judge • optimism indicates when to use a particular player - use optimists in difficult circumstances, and after failure - don't use pessimists when they have just failed • optimism suggests who to select and recruit • pessimists can be trained to be optimists

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Consequences of Pessimism People who are pessimistic are likely to experience problems in 4 areas. • First, they are more susceptible to depression. When bad events happen to them, they are more likely to get depressed and stay depressed for longer. • Second, pessimistic people are likely achieving less than their talents allow. They are achieving less, because they do not believe they could achieve more, and are less persistent when faced with difficulties. • Third, the health of pessimistic people may be at risk, because of their pessimism, and that risk increases with age. • Fourth, pessimistic people are probably not experiencing life as pleasureable as they could be. They believe that success is temporary, and has isolated causes other than themselves, so they are not getting as much pleasure out of those successes as people who think of success as permanent, global events that they caused. In short, it is far better to be optimistic than pessimistic. To use or not to use optimism Use Optimism: • In achievement situations • When you are concerned about how you will feel • The situation is ongoing and your physical health is a issue you want to inspire & lead others or get votes DO NOT use Optimism: • when planning a risky and uncertain future • when counseling others whose future is dim • when being sympathetic to others' difficulties The criterion for using optimism is: what are the consequences of failure? If the consequences are high, then it's best not to use optimism. However, if the consequences are low, then it's best to use optimism. ABCDE Method for changing attributions Seligman suggests that people can change their attributional style (the way they explain life events) from pessimism to optimism. The method he suggests is the ABCDE method. Seligman suggests that people record their reactions to life events, and modify those reactions to be more optimistic. • First, identify the adversity that you are experiencing or have experienced. That is, what bad event has happened to you?

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Second, identify the beliefs that you are using to explain that bad event. That is, what attributions do you have about the event? These beliefs might be hard to identify sometimes, because often they occur automatically. We have learned to explain the world using these beliefs so well that the explanations are automatic. Third, examine the consequences of having that belief. That is, what do you do as a result of the belief? Many times a pessimistic attributional (belief) style will result in quitting, or avoiding, or ending an activity, so as to escape the bad feelings that the individual has experienced from facing adversity. Fourth, to change the beliefs that you are using to explain the adversities you face, Seligman suggests using disputation, which involves (i) examining whether there is any evidence for the beliefs, (ii) identifying what the alternative explanations (beliefs) there are, (iii) what the implications of the belief are (does the belief really justify the consquences?), and (iv) what is the usefulness of the belief (is it really serving some function for me, or am I better off thinking something else?). Fifth, generally, the consquences of negative beliefs are negative things, which often involve withdrawl from the situation and decresed enthusiasm for the situation or activity. Thus, changing the beliefs often leads to an energization, such that the person feels good about what they are doing and they are looking forward to where they are going to go from here.

Optimism is not intended to be simplistic positive thinking. Optimism is about thinking non-negatively, rather than thinking positively. Seligman doesn't want people to be slaves to positive thinking (optimism) any more than he wants people to be slaves to negative thinking (pessimism). But he does suggest that using optimism selectively will lead to a better quality of life for all involved, and that optimism can be learned.

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