Permission to seek freely? The effect of happy and sad moods on generating old and new ideas

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Three experiments investigated why and when sad moods might inhibit generative thought relative to happier moods. Specifically, sad moods might inhibit generative thought compared to happier moods, because they result in individuals' (a) being less likely to use accessible, old ideas; (b) being less likely to use novel ideas; or (c) having less material available in memory. These three possibilities were investigated by having participants in happy or sad moods completed a task that familiarized them with a set of solutions to an upcoming generative task. In contrast to the hypothesis that participants in sad moods were less likely to use accessible ideas than those in happy moods, mood did not influence the use of old solutions on the generative task. Instead, mood affected how many new responses participants generated, with those in sad moods generating fewer new responses than did those in happy moods. This effect of mood was eliminated when participants were told that all responses were acceptable. Because these instructions affect how individuals use information from memory but could not affect what was in memory, these results suggest that mood alters the use of novel information rather than altering the use of accessible responses or the type of material in memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-229
Number of pages15
JournalCreativity Research Journal
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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