It’s no secret that the mood you’re in at any given point has a big effect on your decision-making skills. Simply, if you’re in a bad mood, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to make one type of decision. Scientific American takes a look at why that is, and why you might want to pay more attention to your mood when you’re making moral decisions.
Picture: Anne-Lise Heinrichs/Flickr
Using the classic trolly problem that asks research participants if they would save a group of people by sacrificing one person or not, researchers found that the mood participants were in, and how the question was asked, affected people’s decision-making:
After this mood induction procedure, participants were then presented with the trolley scenario. Some participants were asked: “Do you think it is appropriate to be active and push the man?” while others were asked “Do you think it is appropriate to be passive and not push the man?”.
Participants in a positive mood were more inclined to agree to the question, regardless of which way it was asked. If asked if it was OK to push, they were more likely to push. If asked if it was OK not to push, they were more likely to not push. The opposite pattern was found for those in a negative mood.
Essentially, if you’re in a good mood, you’re likely more agreeable. If you’re in a bad mood, you’re more likely to be disagreeable. How you respond may depend on how the question is asked, not where you’re moral compass really lies. Obviously, this isn’t a real-world experiment, but the results add to the evidence that we’re pretty horrible at making decisions, and it’s worth considering how your mood may affect your decisions moving forward.
How Your Moral Decisions are Shaped by a Bad Mood [Scientific American]