“We decide differently depending on our emotional state”

The way we feel influences our decisions and their outcomes. When we are happy – for example – we are more likely to try new things. But if we are worried, we tend to make more conservative choices. Therefor our emotional response to a website, app or Facebook page alters our judgment.

MoodBecause of this dependence on our emotional state, we make different decisions based on the same set of facts. Overall, this – so called – affect heuristic is of influence in nearly every decision-making arena.

The affect heuristic is typically used while judging the risks and benefits of a choice depending on the positive or negative feelings that people associate with the outcomes. It is the equivalent of “going with your gut instinct”.

And according to the Affect Infusion Model (AIM, by Joseph Forgas) the effects of our mood on our judgments become stronger in complex situations (that demand substantial cognitive processing). So the more complicated and unanticipated a decision is, the more we rely on the affect heuristic.

Scientific Research Example

Imagine you are not a regular gambler, and you participate in a gambling study. First you’re asked to watch a bit of video, and then you’re given $10 to gamble in a computerized card-cutting game.

=> How many trials will you play on the gambling game?

Hill et. al. (2001) found that it depends on your mood. The videos they showed either induced a happy, neutral or depressed mood. And if you watched the happy video, you’re more persistent than when they showed the depressing video. This is because gambling, when it is a new and unfamiliar experience, complete with the bright lights and colors that are a feature of the average casino, requires a great deal of information processing, making it especially unattractive to someone in a bad mood.


Online Persuasion tips


  • Try to make people happy, when you try to sell them something new or complex, or when they don’t know you.
  • Test with inducing a tiny bit of sadness or melancholia, if you need a conservative choice (like renewing a subscription). This might make your customers conservative.
  • Make sure that when you induce a negative mood, you clearly provide the comforting and reassuring aspects of your offer.


Further reading on the reflection effect: