UBC Theses and Dissertations
Effects of emotional motivational intensity on maternal cognitions Colalillo, Sara
Emotions are central to the parenting experience, and mothers’ emotions are linked to their perceptions of their children. The present study examined one causal pathway from mothers’ emotions to their judgments of child behavior as well as neutral stimuli, using a motivational intensity (MI) model. This model states that emotions high in MI restrict, and emotions low in MI broaden, cognitive scope. Fifty-four mothers of 7 to 10 year-old children participated and were randomly assigned to one of three groups reflecting the type of category to be rated (objects, child misbehavior, child good behavior). Anger (high MI), sadness (low MI), and a neutral state were induced via film clips. After each induction, mothers rated the category belongingness of strong and weak exemplars of objects, child misbehavior, or child good behavior. A series of planned contrasts were run within each group to test differences in weak exemplar ratings between the neutral and high MI and the neutral and low MI conditions. For object exemplars, anger had a narrowing effect on cognitive categorization relative to a neutral state, which did not significantly differ from sadness. For misbehavior exemplars, anger instead had a broadening effect on cognitive categorization relative to a neutral state, which did not significantly differ from sadness. For good behavior exemplars, no significant differences were observed between the neutral and anger or the neutral and sadness conditions. This study extends previous research by testing the applicability of the MI model to a parenting context, as well being the first to experimentally examine a causal link between mothers’ emotions and cognitions. Results are discussed in terms of the parenting, social, and cognitive literatures.
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