The Effect of Embodied Emotive States on Cognitive Categorization

  • Price T
  • Harmon-Jones E
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Research has uncovered that positive affect broadens cognitive categorization. The motivational dimensional model, however, posits that positive affect is not a unitary construct with only one cognitive consequence. Instead, this model puts forth that there are different positive affects varying in approach motivational intensity. According to this model, only positive affects lower in motivational intensity should broaden cognitive processes, whereas positive affects higher in motivational intensity should narrow cognitive processes. Consistent with these predictions, high approach positive affect has been shown to narrow attention, whereas low approach positive affect has been shown to broaden it (Gable & Harmon-Jones, 2008). High approach positive affect, therefore, might narrow categorization. Two experiments investigated this possibility by having participants respond to cognitive categorization tasks in 3 body postures designed to elicit different levels of approach motivation: reclining backward, which should evoke low approach motivation; sitting upright, which should evoke moderate approach motivation; and leaning forward, which should evoke high approach motivation. Participants smiled while in each posture in order to experience positive affect. Experiment 1 provided initial support for the idea that high approach positive affect narrows categorization and low approach positive affect broadens categorization. Experiment 2 replicated these findings with improved smiling instructions. These results extend previous work by showing that the motivational model's predictions hold for basic attentional processes as well as higher level cognitive processes such as categorization.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Approach motivation
  • Cognitive categorization
  • Embodiment
  • Positive affect

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  • Tom F. Price

  • Eddie Harmon-Jones

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