The Effect of Mood on Wishful Thinking and NFL Outcome Predictions

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Zachary Cruz (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Andrew Smith

Abstract: People make judgments and decisions on an everyday basis. From picking an NCAA Tournament bracket to judging the likelihood of rain, people often have a preference for one outcome over another. Wishful thinking is the idea that people’s desires exhibit a causal influence on their expectations—specifically, a desire for an outcome increases people’s optimism about that outcome. Past research has found wishful thinking (or “the desirability bias”) in a variety of contexts, including sports and political decisions. Separate research has shown that differing mood states can affect interpretation of information, judgments, and decisions. Because people rarely make decisions when in a neutral mood, our study investigated the influence of mood on wishful thinking. We hypothesized that putting participants into a happy mood would increase the amount of wishful thinking they exhibited relative to putting participants into a sad mood. To test this, we manipulated participants’ moods by having them watch either a happy or a sad video clip. Afterwards, they made predictions for each of the 16 games played in the first week of the 2014-15 NFL season. Overall, we found that people exhibited wishful thinking in that they were far more likely to predict their favorite team winning as compared to the other teams. However, mood did not appear to affect people’s predictions. In other words, both happy and sad participants exhibited similar levels of wishful thinking.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Cruz, Z. (2015) The Effect of Mood on Wishful Thinking and NFL Outcome Predictions. Unpublished honors thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2015

Email this document to