Figure 188

Free recall of depression-related and essay-writing-related words in four conditions: depressed mood induction; arousal induction; neutral mood induction; and schema induction. Adapted from Varner and Ellis (1998).

Bower et al. (1981) studied mood congruity. Participants who had been hypnotised to feel happy or sad read a story about two college men, Jack and André. Jack is very depressed and glum, because he is having problems with his academic work, with his girl-friend, and with his tennis. In contrast, André is very happy, because things are going very well for him in all three areas. Participants identified more with the story character whose mood resembled their own while they were reading the story, and recalled more information about him. Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to replicate these findings (Bower, 1987).

Kwiatkowski and Parkinson (1994) compared memory performance in naturally depressed participants and in participants who received a depressed mood induction but were not naturally depressed. Mood congruity occurred only in the naturally depressed group. As Kwiatkowski and Parkinson (1994, p. 232) concluded, "The present study suggests important qualitative differences between the two types of depression."

Perrig and Perrig (1988) instructed their participants to behave as if they were depressed or happy, but no attempt was made to induce any mood state. These instructions were followed by a word list containing positive, negative, and neutral words, which then had to be recalled. Those participants indicating an awareness of mood-congruity effects produced results very similar to those obtained by Bower et al. (1981), whereas those who did not showed no evidence of selective learning.

One interpretation of Perrig and Perrig's findings is that the participants were simply behaving as they thought the experimenter wanted them to behave. Perhaps the mood-congruity effects obtained in mood-induction studies merely reflect a desire on the part of participants to do what is expected. A more plausible interpretation was offered by Perrig and Perrig (1988, p. 102): "Mood may be a sufficient but not a necessary condition to produce the mood-congruity effect of selective learning." Thus, mood-congruity effects can be produced either by genuine mood induction or by mood simulation.

Mood states produce changes in physiological arousal as well as in cognitive activity. Bower (1981) assumed that the cognitive changes were responsible for mood congruity, but it is possible that mood congruity actually depends on the arousal changes. Varner and Ellis (1998) compared these possibilities in two experiments in which the participants were presented with a list of words, some of which were associated with being depressed and the rest of which were related to the organisation of skills when writing an essay. There were four conditions: depressed mood induction; arousal induction (stepping up and down on a wooden platform); neutral mood induction; and schema induction (reading statements relevant to writing an essay). After the list had been presented, there was a test of free recall.

What were the findings? Mood congruity was found in the depressed mood induction condition, but not in the arousal induction condition (see Figure 18.8). Evidence that cognitive processes in the absence of physiological arousal can produce selective recall was found in the schema induction condition. Varner and Ellis (1998) obtained similar findings in a second experiment, in which the various induction procedures were used after learning but before recall. Thus, mood congruity can affect retrieval as well as learning. Varner and Ellis (1998, p. 947) concluded as follows: "Taken as a whole, the findings indicate that cognitive activity is of central import to the occurrence of mood-congruent processing and that arousal has little or no impact on the selective processing of mood-related information."

Thought congruity

Thought congruity has been studied in various ways. One method is to present participants with a list of pleasant and unpleasant words prior to mood induction, and then to test for recall after mood induction. The prediction is that pleasant words will be recalled better after pleasant mood induction than after unpleasant mood induction, with the opposite being the case for unpleasant words. Another method is to ask participants to recall autobiographical memories following mood induction. Pleasant moods should increase the number of pleasant memories recalled, and perhaps the speed with which they are recalled, and unpleasant moods should do the same for unpleasant memories.

Thought congruity has been shown in various studies using both of the methods just described (see Blaney, 1986, for a review). For example, Clark and Teasdale (1982) tested depressed patients on two occasions, with the depth of the depression being more severe on one occasion than on the other. More depressing or unhappy memories and fewer happy memories were recalled on the more depressed occasion, with the opposite being the case on the less depressed occasion. These findings are consistent with the notion of a vicious circle in depressed patients: depressed mood state leads to recall of depressing memories, and the recall of depressing memories exacerbates the depressed mood state.

Mood intensity

There has been relatively little work on the mood intensity hypothesis. However, Rinck, Glowalla, and Schneider (1992) considered a related issue, namely, the emotional intensity of the stimulus material. Participants who were put into a happy or sad mood rated words in terms of their pleasantness-unpleasantness. There was a mood-congruency effect for the intensely emotional words (i.e., strongly pleasant or unpleasant) on a later unexpected recall test, but this effect was not found for the weakly emotional words.


Bower's network theory has provided a focus for research on mood and memory. Although the findings are somewhat inconsistent, the effects of mood on learning and memory generally resemble those predicted. However, the findings pose some problems for the theory. First, negative moods have often failed to enhance the learning and recall of negative material. This was shown most strikingly by Williams and Broadbent (1986) in a study on thought congruity. They studied the retrieval of autobiographical memories to positive and negative cue words by individuals who had recently attempted suicide by overdose. The suicide attempters were slower than normal controls to retrieve personal memories to the positive cue words, but

Stop Anxiety Attacks

Stop Anxiety Attacks

Here's How You Could End Anxiety and Panic Attacks For Good Prevent Anxiety in Your Golden Years Without Harmful Prescription Drugs. If You Give Me 15 minutes, I Will Show You a Breakthrough That Will Change The Way You Think About Anxiety and Panic Attacks Forever! If you are still suffering because your doctor can't help you, here's some great news...!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment