Attitude and Decision Making Lab

Role of Affect and Emotions in Judgments and Decisions

Our research has identified a number of different ways in which affect and emotions influence different kinds of judgments and decisions. Much of this research involves affective reactions to threat. For example, when a country experiences an external threat this often triggers “rally round the flag” effects, and our research has shown that this rally effect is primarily the result of anger in reaction to the threat, rather than anxiety.

More recent research has explored the consequences of affect and emotions for health-related decisions. This research has found (for example) that when anxiety about a health threat is low, patients’ treatment preferences are driven by knowledge about the treatment, but when anxiety is high patients generally want to maximize their care regardless of how much they know. Moreover, patients’ positive vs. negative feelings about screening tests, such as prostate cancer screening, are driven primarily by two critical factors: 1) anxiety about the health threat, and 2) the perceived benefits of testing (e.g. “will this test save my life?”). Interestingly, perceived benefits are much more influential than perceived risks (e.g. “will this test cause me serious harm?”). This means that patients may want a screening test so long as they view it as potentially beneficial, even when the harms are both severe and relatively likely.

Selected Publications

Last modified: 07-Aug-2017