Sources of Emotions and Moods

Have you ever said to yourself, I got up on the wrong side of the bed today? Have you ever slapped at a co-workers or family members for no particular reason? If you have, it probably makes you wonder where emotions and moods come from. Here, we pick up the discussions on moods because, even though emotions are thought to be more influenced by events than moods, ironically researchers have conducted more studies on the sources of moods than on the sources of particular emotions. So, now we’ll turn to the main sources of moods, though a lot of these sources also affect emotions.

Also, positive events are more likely to affect the positive mood and positive emotions of extroverts and negative events are more likely to influence the negative mood and negative emotions of those scoring low on emotional stability. To illustrate: Let’s say there are two friends who work together – P and A. P scores high on extraversion and emotional stability and ‘A’ scores low on both. One day at work, P and ‘A’ learn they’re going to earn a commission for a sale their work group made. Later the same day, their boss stops by and yells at them for no apparent reason In this situation, you’d expect P’s positive affect to increase more than A’s because P is more extraverted and attends more to the good news of the day. Conversely, you’d expect A’s negative affect to increase more than P’s because A scores lower on emotional stability and therefore tends to dwell on the negative that day.

Day of the week and time of the day: Most people are at work or at school from Monday through Friday. For most of us, that remains the weekend which is a time of relaxation and leisure. Does that suggest that people are in their best moods on the weekends? Well, actually yes. People tend to be in their worst moods (highest negative affect and lowest affect) early in the week and in their best moods (highest positive affect and lowest negative affect) late in the week.

What about time of the day? When you usually are in your best mood and your worst? We often think that people differ, depending on whether they are ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ people. However the vast majority of us follow a similar pattern. People are generally in lower spirits early in the morning. During the course of the day, our moods tend to improve and then decline in the evening. Interestingly regardless of what time people go to bed at night or get up in the morning, levels of positive affect tend to peak around the halfway point between waking and sleeping. Negative affect, however, shows little fluctuation throughout the day.

What does this mean for organizational behavior? Asking someone for a favor, or conveying bad news is probably not a good idea on Monday morning. Our workplace interactions will probably be more positive from mid morning onwards and also later in the week.

It does seem that people who describe themselves as morning people are more alert early in the morning. However, these morning people experience only slightly better moods (more positive affect) in the morning compared to those who describe themselves as evening people (and vice versa).

Weather: When do you would be in a better mood? When it’s 70 degrees and sunny or when it’s gloomy, cold, rainy day? Many people believe their mood is tied to the weather. However, evidence suggests that weather has little effect on mood. One expert concluded. Contrary to the prevailing cultural view, these data indicate that people do not report a better mood on bright and sunny days (or, conversely, a worse mood on dark and rainy days). Illusory correlation explains why people tend to think that nice weather improves their mood. Illusory correlation occurs when people associate two events but in reality there is no connection.

Social Activities: For most people, social activities increase positive mood and have little effect on negative mood. But do people in positive moods seek out social interactions, or do social interactions cause people to be in good moods? It seems that both are true. And, does the type of social activity matter? Indeed it does. Research suggests that physical (skiing or hiking with friends), informal (going to a party), or Epicurean (eating with others) activities are more strongly associated with increase in positive mood than formal attending a meeting or sedentary (watching TV with friends) events.

Social interactions even have long term health benefits. One study of longevity found that being in the company of others (as opposed to social isolation) was one of the best predictors of how long someone lives more important than gender, or even blood pressure or cholesterol levels. One of the reasons for this is positive affect. A study of nuns 75-95 years also showed that the degree to which the nuns experience positive moods in their 20s predicted how long they lived six decades later.

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