The Affect Infusion Model – Mood and Judgment

May 2, 2020
Mood affects your judgment, but not consistently. The affect infusion model tries to explain how mood affects a person's ability to process information.

The affect infusion model is a theoretical model in the field of human psychology. It was developed by social psychologist Joseph Paul Forgas in the early 1990s. It attempts to explain how mood affects a person’s ability to process information.

A key claim of the affect infusion model is that mood effects tend to exacerbate in complex situations, particularly in those that require substantial cognitive processing. In other words, mood becomes more influential in the conduct of evaluations and responses as unexpected situations arise and become more complicated.

“When you react, you let others control you. When you respond, you’re in control.”

– Bohdi Sanders-

Mood affects judgment

Mood affects judgment, although not consistently. For your mood to have an effect on your judgment, it must first nullify the forces that would normally lead to the judgment that one might refer to as “standard”.

Humor has no effect when you’re making judgments based on direct recovery from a simple, preformed conclusion. Nor when you’re trying to meet strong goals. However, your mood does have an effect when you try to make decisions. Thus, humor sneaks in below your level of consciousness, skewing your judgment without you even noticing it.

A seemingly concerned woman

The affect infusion model

Forgas defined affect infusion as “the process by which affection-charged information exercises an influence and incorporates into the trial process, entering the judge’s deliberations and eventually coloring the outcome of a trial”. In other words, affect infusion is a process that determines the degree to which mood can affect your judgment.

According to the affect infusion model, affect (mood and emotion) exerts a notable influence. Not only on information processing but also on the resulting response behaviors. For example, a person will respond differently when they receive an excessively large utility bill if they’ve had a relaxed and stress-free day, as opposed to if they had a busy and hard day. In this last circumstance, the person will experience high levels of affect infusion. This is because their agitated state will undoubtedly worsen upon seeing the utility bill.

One assumption of the affect infusion model is that this effect will generally occur with greater intensity as the complexity of a situation increases. Highly complex situations can exhibit a number of qualities, such as the amount of effort required to process information.

Processing strategies

According to Forgas, one can see the different levels of affect infusion as a continuum. It has four alternative processing strategies. These strategies represent the different degrees of severity in which humor exerts influence.

The processing strategies proposed by Forgas are:

  • Direct access processing. It involves reproducing a stored reaction. In other words, repeating a response that was given before in a similar situation. According to the affect infusion model, the influence of mood on cognition is less severe during this type of processing.
  • Motivated processing. It involves specific search strategies with a direct informative objective in mind. This strategy implies little influence from mood since the individual in question will have a fairly clear idea of ​​the kind of information they need.
  • Heuristic processing. The assumption here is that affective processing, or emotional processing, occurs outside of one’s consciousness. That people simply make sense of their emotional reactions as they have them. Thus, the affective experience provides people information about themselves.
  • Substantive or systematic processing. It involves the most elaborate cognitive processing and appears higher in the continuum, mainly because it’s the most affected by mood. This is so because mood can affect every stage of the cognitive process: attention, coding, recovery, and association.
A man thinking.

While identifying these strategies, you must consider two important differentiating factors. The information search strategies used for performing a task (open or restricted). Also, the scope of the information considered when constructing an answer.

  • Forgas, J.P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The Affect Infusion Model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin. 117 (1): 39–66. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.1.39
  • Forgas, J.P. (1998). On feeling good and getting your way: Mood effects on negotiator cognition and bargaining strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 74 (3): 565–577. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.565.
  • Forgas, J. P. (1999). On feeling good and being rude: Affective influences on language use and request formulations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 76 (6): 928–939. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.76.6.928.
  • Forgas, J.P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The Affect Infusion Model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin. 117 (1): 39–66. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.1.39.