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Sample Educational Debriefing Statement

Perceptions and Cognitive Processing

Thank you for agreeing to participate in this study!

Much research has shown that mood can influence the way we process information. People in happy moods tend to see “the forest”—they focus on the big picture, and notice more (and often unusual) relationships between things. People in sad moods, however, tend to process information in the opposite way: they see “the trees,” and their focus becomes more detail-oriented and concrete. In this study we hypothesized that we could produce this difference in global/local processing with two different positive mindsets: amusement and profundity.

In the current study we presented a series of photos or sentences that typically put people in a positive mood. We then asked you to rate the items in terms of how funny or how profound they seemed. You then completed one or more tasks to assess your style of thinking. The research on positive mood discussed above suggests that these positive feelings should make people focus globally (on the forest). What we wanted to know was whether the type of ratings people made would influence their style of thinking. Specifically, we predict that participants who rated the items for humor will have more of a local, detail-oriented, “only the trees” type of focus. If the results support our hypothesis, future research will ask why this was the case. One possibility is that humor often involves an attempt to make “big,” complicated, or abstract phenomena seem smaller, more obvious, and more concrete.

Thanks again for participating. Please do not divulge the purpose of this experiment to other people in the subject pool!

If you have further questions or concerns regarding this experiment, please contact XX or YY In addition, if you have any concerns about any aspect of the study, you may contact NAME OF CURRENT CHAIR, Ph.D., Chair, Institutional Review Board for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, One Morton Drive, Suite 500, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 800392, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0392. Telephone: (434) 924-5999.

References: Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2000). Do you have to pay attention to your feelings in order to be influenced by them? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 698 - 711.

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.

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