Immediacy Bias in Emotion Perception: Current Emotions Seem More Intense than Previous Emotions
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 138, No. 3, 368-382, 2009
15 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2010
Date Written: 2009
People tend to perceive immediate emotions as more intense than previous emotions. This immediacy bias in emotion perception occurred for exposure to emotional but not neutral stimuli (Study 1), when emotional stimuli were separated by both shorter (2 s; Studies 1 and 2) and longer (20 min; Studies 3, 4, and 5) delays, and for emotional reactions to pictures (Studies 1 and 2), films (Studies 3 and 4), and descriptions of terrorist threats (Study 5). The immediacy bias may be partly caused by immediate emotion’s salience, and by the greater availability of information about immediate compared with previous emotion. Consistent with emotional salience, when people experienced new emotions, they perceived previous emotions as less intense than they did initially (Studies 3 and 5) - a change in perception that did not occur when people did not experience a new immediate emotion (Study 2). Consistent with emotional availability, reminding people that information about emotions naturally decays from memory reduced the immediacy bias by making previous emotions seem more intense (Study 4). Discussed are implications for psychological theory and other judgments and behaviors.
Keywords: emotion, judgment, heuristic, memory, perception
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