The effect of mood on performance in non-normal situations

PhD Thesis

Tehrani, Morteza. 2018. The effect of mood on performance in non-normal situations. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

The effect of mood on performance in non-normal situations

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorTehrani, Morteza
SupervisorBates, Paul
Murray, Patrick
Martin, Wayne
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages336
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Airline passengers’ inattention to the pre-flight safety briefing has produced an overwhelming workload on the cabin crew during emergencies as many passengers do not know how to use the safety equipment such as oxygen mask, floatation devices or operate emergency exit doors. Post-accident investigations have confirmed that passenger education will be an effective way to improve safety and increase survival rates. More recently, airlines have used innovative solutions, not considered previously, such as using humour or employing celebrities to deliver the safety briefings with the aim of enhancing passengers’ mood and attract their attention.

Mood, with its dimensions of pleasure or displeasure (i.e., happiness, enthusiasm, fright, upset, sadness), can moderate behaviour. Several studies have confirmed the relationship between mood and performance in everyday situations. However, little is known about the relationship between mood and performance in non-normal situations, such as during an emergency aircraft evacuation. The aims of this study were to test the effect of mood (positive or negative) as a performance moderator on passengers’ performance during an unscheduled aircraft evacuation; to investigate whether the mandatory pre-flight safety briefing could be employed to manipulate passengers’ mood; and to assess an alternative method, such as a reward system, of motivating passengers to pay attention to the pre-flight safety briefing.

In the first experiment, 49 students and staff from the University of New South Wales participated in a simulated aircraft emergency exercise (Experiment 1). Participants were randomised into sad and happy mood manipulation groups and asked to disembark quickly from a mock aircraft. The results revealed that positive mood significantly reduced errors and the time to complete an emergency evacuation.

In the second experiment, 82 university students and staff were randomised to receive one of three styles of pre-flight safety briefing – standard, incorporating humour, and movie-themed – and their recall of safety information was measured. The results showed that a pre-flight safety briefing could influence passengers’ mood, but there was a trade-off between entertainment and education: the greater the entertainment value, the poorer the retention of key safety messages.

The third experiment involved 53 students and staff from the University of Southern Queensland, randomised into a control group as well as a reward group (offered a prize for recalling safety messages); their mood was measured before and after the safety video presentation. It revealed that some people react adversely to a reward system, suggesting that a reward cannot be used as the sole means of attracting passengers’ attention to safety information. These results have valuable implications for both airlines and aviation governing authorities with respect to improving passenger safety, and add significantly to the scientific literature on mood and performance.

Keywordsmood, memory, cabin safety, aviation, pre-flight safety briefing, emergency
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020461002. Human information behaviour
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Commerce
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