Anger and Pavlovian Bias: Integrating Laboratory Task Performance and Ecological Momentary Assessment



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The majority of human behaviors is goal-directed, meaning people act in a certain way to achieve a desired outcome. However, many symptoms of psychopathology are associated with impulsive behavioral choices inconsistent with an individual’s goals. Research using laboratory tasks suggests this might be due to Pavlovian Bias, which can work against goal-orientated behavior. However, the extant literature on impulsive, maladaptive behaviors suggests that changes in affect highly impact impulsive behaviors. No research has examined the impact of mood on Pavlovian Bias. Thus, it is unknown whether changes in mood may impact one’s ability to overcome Pavlovian bias. Additionally, given the nature of laboratory tasks, it’s unclear whether these tasks have ecological validity. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation was to examine the impact of increased negative affect on Pavlovian bias and to examine if individual differences in various components of Pavlovian bias might moderate the trajectory of negative affect before and after an impulsive behavior in the real world. In Study 1, 30 individuals completed a Pavlovian Bias task before and after an anger mood induction. Results from the task revealed that while anger induction did not change one’s overall Pavlovian Bias score, individuals where more likely to make more mistakes in the Go to Avoid trials and to approach rewards after the mood induction. In Study 2, the same 30 individuals completed two-weeks of ecological momentary assessment (EMA), in which they responded to prompts assessing affect and impulsive behaviors several times a day. EMA data revealed negative mood significantly increased before and decreased after impulsive behaviors. Additionally, changes in the percent correct of Go to Avoid trials and reward sensitivity moderated the trajectory of negative affect before and after impulsive behaviors. Specifically, individuals who experienced a greater decrease in either their percent correct of Go to Avoid trials or reward sensitivity required less of an increase in negative affect before engaging in impulsive behavior. Findings from both of these studies suggest that acute changes in anger can impact one’s ability to engage in goal-orientated behaviors that are rewarding, and approach driven. Furthermore, individual differences in task performance after an anger mood induction may impact the daily experience of negative affect and impulsive behaviors.