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Explaining negative "mystery moods". (Your Life).

Have you ever been in a bad mood that you couldn't explain and wondered what put you in a funk? Research by Tanya Chartrand, assistant professor of psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus, found that such negative "mystery moods" can occur when people fail at a goal that they didn't even know they had. 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 points out. "But if you fail at a nonconscious goal, you're put into this negative mystery mood." Nonconscious goals are those that individuals 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. 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 act and what they say. Over time, the features of the party environment become linked in memory with the goals of presenting themselves well. Eventually, the goals become nonconscious and are triggered automatically every time they go to a party. The may not realize they have a goal when they attend one, but it becomes evident that they do.

Chartrand indicates that nonconscious goals play an important role in everyday life. For example, many students may have nonconscious achievement goals that affect how they act in school. Employees may have similar goals at work. "Nonconscious goal pursuit is incredibly pervasive because it saves us cognitive resources. If we constantly had to think about what we want to accomplish in every particular situation, we wouldn't be able to do anything else. We are succeeding and failing at these nonconscious goals all the time. Research is beginning to show how this affects our moods, the way we perform, and the judgments we make about others. It's incredibly important."
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Title Annotation:nonconscious goals
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:How to feather your first nest. (Your Life).
Next Article:Women's changing personality traits. (Your Life).

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