Mood (psychology)

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A mood is a relatively long lasting emotional state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event.[1]

Moods generally have either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people typically speak of being in a good mood or a bad mood. Unlike acute, emotional feelings like fear and surprise, moods often last for hours or days.

Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even longer lasting. Nevertheless, personality traits such as optimism and neuroticism predispose certain types of moods. Long term disturbances of mood such as depression and bipolar disorder are considered mood disorders. Mood is an internal, subjective state, but it often can be inferred from posture and other behaviors.


Etymologically, mood derives from the Old English mōd which denoted military courage, but could also refer to a person's humour, temper, or disposition at a particular time. The cognate Gothic mōds translates both θυμός "mood, spiritedness" and ὀργή "anger".


In sociology, philosophy and psychology crowd behaviour is the formation of a common mood directed toward an object of attention.[2]

Social mood

The idea of social mood as a "collectively shared state of mind" (Nofsinger 2005; Olson 2006) is attributed to Robert Prechter and his socionomics. The notion is used primarily in the field of economics (investments).

Positive mood

Positive mood can be caused by many different aspects of life as well as have certain effects on people as a whole. People seem to experience a positive mood when they have a clean slate, have had a good night sleep, and feel no sense of stress in their life. "Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking".[3] Good mood is usually considered a displaced state; people cannot pinpoint exactly why they are in a good mood. "There has been many studies done on the effect of positive emotion on the cognitive mind and there is speculation that positive mood can effect our minds in good or bad ways. Some studies had stated that positive moods let people think creatively, freely, and be more imaginative. People in a positive mood are usually easier to talk to and want to have longer conversations compared to someone who is in a negative or neutral mood. Lastly positive mood can help us in situations where heavy thinking and brainstorming is involved. Positive mood has also been proven to show negative effects on cognition as well. According to the article “Positive mood is associated with implicit use of distraction”, “There is also evidence that individuals in positive moods show disrupted performance, at least when distracting information is present”.[4] The article states that other things in their peripheral views can easily distract people who are in good moods; an example of this would be if you were trying to study in the library (considering you are in a positive mood) you see people constantly walking around or making small noises. The study is basically stating that it would be harder for positive moods to focus on the task at hand. In particular, happy people may be more sensitive to the hedonic consequences of message processing than sad people. Thus, positive moods are predicted to lead to decreased processing only when thinking about the message is mood threatening. In comparison, if message processing allows a person to maintain or enhance a pleasant state then positive moods need not lead to lower levels of message scrutiny than negative moods.[5] It is assumed that initial information regarding the source either confirms or disconfirms mood-congruent expectations. Specifically, a positive mood may lead to more positive expectations concerning source trustworthiness or likability than a negative mood. As a consequence, people in a positive mood should be more surprised when they encounter an untrustworthy or dislikable source rather than a trustworthy or likable source.[5]

Negative mood

Like positive moods, negative moods have important implications for human mental and physical wellbeing. Moods are basic psychological states that can occur as a reaction to an event or can surface for no apparent external cause. Since there is no intentional object that causes the negative mood, it has no specific start and stop date. It can last for hours, days, weeks, or longer. Negative moods can manipulate how individuals interpret and translate the world around them, and can also direct their behavior.

Negative moods can affect an individual’s judgment and perception of objects and events. In a study done by Niedenthal and Setterlund (1994), research showed that individuals are tuned to perceive things that are congruent with their current mood. Negative moods, mostly low-intense, can control how humans perceive emotion-congruent objects and events. For example, Niedenthal and Setterland used music to induce positive and negative moods. Sad music was used as a stimulus to induce negative moods, and participants labeled other things as negative. This proves that people's current moods tend to affect their judgments and perceptions. These negative moods may lead to problems in social relationships. For example, one maladaptive negative mood regulation is an overactive strategy in which individuals over dramatize their negative feelings in order to provoke support and feedback from others and to guarantee their availability. A second type of maladaptive negative mood regulation is a disabling strategy in which individuals suppress their negative feelings and distance themselves from others in order to avoid frustrations and anxiety caused by others' unavailability.

Negative moods have been connected with depression, anxiety, aggression, poor self esteem, physiological stress and decrease in sexual arousal. In some individuals, there is evidence that depressed or anxious mood may increase sexual interest or arousal. In general, men were more likely than women to report increased sexual drive during negative mood states. Negative moods are labeled as nonconstructive because it can affect a person’s ability to process information; making them focus solely on the sender of a message, while people in positive moods will pay more attention to both the sender and the context of a message. This can lead to problems in social relationships with others.

Negative moods, such as anxiety, often lead individuals to misinterpret physical symptoms. According to Jerry Suls, a professor at the University of Iowa, people who are depressed and anxious tend to be in rumination. However, although an individual's affective states can influence the somatic changes, these individuals are not hypochondriacs.[6]

Although negative moods are generally characterized as bad, not all negative moods are necessarily damaging. The Negative State Relief Model states that human beings have an innate drive to reduce negative moods. People can reduce their negative moods by engaging in any mood-elevating behavior, such as helping behavior, as it is paired with positive value such as smiles and thank you. Thus negative mood increases helpfulness because helping others can reduce one's own bad feelings.[7]


  1. ^ Thayer, Robert E. (1998). The Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Mood in collective behaviour (psychology): Crowds, Britannica Online
  3. ^ A positive mood, 2010
  4. ^ Biss, R. 2010
  5. ^ a b Ziegler, R. 2010
  6. ^ Grudnikov, K. (2011, July). "Circumstantial Evidence. How your mood influences your corporeal sensations". Psychology Today, 44, 42.
  7. ^ Baumann, Cialdini, & Kenrick, 1981


  • Lykins, A. D., Janssen, E., & Graham, C. A. (2006). "The Relationship Between Negative Mood and Sexuality In Heterosexual College Women and Men". Journal of Sex Research, 43(2), 136.
  • Niedenthal, P.M.; Setterlund, M.B. (August 1994). "Emotional congruence in perception". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 20 (4): 401-411.
  • Nofsinger, J.R. (2005). "Social Mood and Financial Economics", Journal of Behavioural Finance, 6
  • Olson, K.R. (2006). "A literature Review of Social Mood", Journal of Behavioral Finance, 7
  • Sucală, M. L., & Tătar, A. (2010). Optimism, pessimism and negative mood regulation expectancies in cancer patients. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 10(1), 13-24.
  • Wei, M., Vogel, D. L., Ku, T., & Zakalik, R. A. (2005). Adult Attachment, Affect Regulation, Negative Mood, and Interpersonal Problems: The Mediating Roles of Emotional Reactivity and Emotional Cutoff. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(1), 14-24.
  • A positive mood allows your brain to think more creatively. (2010, December 13). Retrieved from [1]
  • Ziegler, R. (2010). "Mood, source characteristics, and message processing: A mood-congruent expectancies approach". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(5), 743-752.
  • A. Andersen & L. K. Guerrero (Eds.) Handbook of communication and emotion. pp. 5–24. San Diago: Academic Press.
  • Martin, E. A., & Kerns, J. G. (2011). "The influence of positive mood on different aspects of cognitive control". Cognition & Emotion, 25(2), 265-279. doi:10.1080/02699931.2010.491652
  • Biss, R. K., Hasher, L., & Thomas, R. C. (2010). "Positive mood is associated with the implicit use of distraction". Motivation & Emotion, 34(1), 73-77. doi:10.1007/s11031-010-9156-y

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