Failure at nonconscious goals explains negative 'mystery moods'

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Have you ever been in a bad mood that you couldn't explain and wondered what put you in a funk?

A researcher at Ohio State University found that such negative "mystery moods" can occur when people fail at a goal that they didn't even know they had.

Tanya Chartrand, assistant professor of psychology, said such nonconscious goals can have significant effects on how we feel and act, and even on how well we achieve other goals.

"If you succeed at a goal you didn't know you had, you're in a good mood and don't know why," Chartrand said. "But if you fail at a nonconscious goal, you're put into this negative, mystery mood."

Chartrand discussed her recent research June 15 in Toronto at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society.

Nonconscious goals are goals that people have frequently and consistently chosen in particular situations in the past - so much so that they eventually become triggered automatically in those same environments without their conscious thought or even intent, Chartrand explained.

For example, young people who begin attending parties may start by very consciously thinking about how to best present themselves to others, and carefully monitor how they

Contact: Tanya Chartrand
Ohio State University

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