By Erik Strand, published on January 1, 2004 - last reviewed on July 30, 2007
Assistant psychology professors David DeSteno at Northeastern
University in Boston and Nilanjana Dasgupta at the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst, randomly divided 81 study participants into two
groups and assigned them a writing task designed to induce angry, sad or,
neutral feelings. In a subsequent test to uncover non-conscious
associations, angry subjects were quicker to connect negatively charged
words—like war, death and vomit—with members of the opposite
group—even though the groupings were completely arbitrary.
“These automatic responses guide our behavior when
we’re not paying attention,” says DeSteno, and they can lead
to discriminatory acts when there is pressure to make a quick decision.
“If you’re aware that your emotions might be coloring these
gut reactions,” he says, “you should take time to consider
that possibility and adjust your actions accordingly.”