We believe that feelings are functional experiences. When people feel positive, those feelings can signal that the world is fine and that one is free to explore. Whereas, when people feel negative, those feelings can indicate that something is problematic and that one should be vigilant. If this is true, then more positive states may focus people on the big picture and help them make global connections, whereas more negative states may focus people on the details and help them make local connections. That is, positive moods may focus people on the forest, whereas more negative moods may focus them on the trees. Indeed, this is what some of our work reveals.
Want to see how we measure this in the lab?Click here to experience the actual measure that we give our research participants to measure how they engage in these different types of processing. Your score on this task tells you whether you're processing more globally or more locally at this moment!
For more information see:
Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Attending to the big picture: Mood and global versus local processing of visual information. Psychological Science, 13, 33-39.
Gasper, K. (2004). Do you see what I see? Affect and visual information processing. Cognition & Emotion, 18, 405-421.