Language and Emotion – A Foosball Study: The Influence of Affective State on Language Production in a Competitive Setting
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Our affective state is influenced by daily events and our interactions with other people, which, in turn, can affect the way we communicate. In two studies, we investigated the influence of experiencing success or failure in a foosball (table soccer) game on participants’ affective state and how this in turn influenced the way they report on the game itself. Winning or losing a match can further influence how they view their own team (compared to the opponent), which may also impact how they report on the match. In Study 1, we explored this by having participants play foosball matches in two dyads. They subsequently reported their affective state and team cohesiveness, and wrote two match reports, one from their own and one from their opponent’s perspective. Indeed, while the game generally improved participants’ moods, especially winning made them happier and more excited and losing made them more dejected, both in questionnaires and in the reports, which were analyzed with a word count tool. Study 2 experimentally investigated the effect of affective state on focus and distancing behavior. After the match, participants chose between preselected sentences (from Study 1) that differed in focus (mentioning the own vs. other team) or distancing (using we vs. the team name). Results show an effect for focus: winning participants preferred sentences that described their own performance positively while losing participants chose sentences that praised their opponent over negative sentences about themselves. No effect of distancing in pronoun use was found: winning and losing participants equally preferred the use of we vs. the use of their own team name. We discuss the implications of our findings with regard to models of language production, the self-serving bias, and the use of games to induce emotions in a natural way.