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Experimental induction of sad mood states is a mainstay of laboratory research on affect and cognition, mood regulation, and mood disorders. Typically, the success of such mood manipulations is reported as a statistically significant pre- to post-induction change in the self-rated intensity of the target affect. The present commentary was motivated by an unexpected finding in one of our studies concerning the response rate to a well-validated sad mood induction. Using the customary statistical approach, we found a significant mean increase in self-rated sadness intensity with a moderate effect size, verifying the “success” of the mood induction. However, that “success” masked that, between one-fifth and about one-third of our samples (adolescents who had histories of childhood-onset major depressive disorder and healthy controls) reported absolutely no sadness in response to the mood induction procedure. We consider implications of our experience for emotion research by (1) commenting upon the typically overlooked phenomenon of nonresponse, (2) suggesting changes in reporting practices regarding mood induction success, and (3) outlining future directions to help scientists determine why some subjects do not respond to experimental mood induction.

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Cognition and Emotion, v. 32, issue 3, p. 431-436

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cognition and Emotion on 03 May 2017, available online:

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