Incidental moods, source likeability, and persuasion: Liking motivates message elaboration in happy people

Robert C. Sinclair, Sean E. Moore, Melvin M. Mark, Alexander S. Soldat, Carrie A. Lavis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Happy people often fail to elaborate on persuasive arguments, while people in sad moods tend to scrutinise messages in greater detail. According to some motivational accounts, however, happy people will elaborate a message if they believe it might maintain their positive mood. The present research extends this reasoning by demonstrating that happy people will elaborate arguments from message presenters that convey positive hedonic attributes (i.e., source likeability). In a pilot study, we show that happy people believe persuasive messages from a likeable source will be mood maintaining. The results of Study 1 demonstrate that these expectancies have important message-processing implications. In Study 1, sad participants elaborated arguments from both likeable and dislikeable sources, while happy participants only elaborated arguments from a likeable source. Consistent with motivational explanation of these effects, in Study 2, happy participants elaborated arguments from a likeable source when not distracted, but used likeability as a heuristic when distracted with a cognitive-load manipulation. Implications of these results for understanding the effects of mood on processing strategy, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)940-961
Number of pages22
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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