We propose that experience of emotion is a mental phenomenon, which requires resources. This hypothesis implies that a concurrent cognitive load diminishes the intensity of feeling since the 2 activities are competing for the same resources. Two sets of experiments tested this hypothesis. The first line of experiments (Experiments 1-4) examined the intensity of participants' feelings as they performed a secondary (backward counting) task. The results showed that the intensity of both negative and positive feelings diminished under a cognitive load and that this attenuation of feeling was not mediated by either distraction from external stimuli or demand characteristics. In the second set of experiments (Experiments 5-6), load was created by asking the participants to focus on the feelings. Even in these circumstances, the participants who were under load reported a lower intensity of feeling than those who were not under load. We explain these findings in terms of a resource-dependent model of emotional experience. Possible implications of our findings for a broader class of phenomenological experiences are succinctly discussed.
- Cognitive load