Past research indicates that positive affect (relative to neutral or negative affect) reduces processing and makes categorization less differentiated. The present experiment demonstrated that preference, even though affectively pleasant, invites finer categorization. Expertise is already known to influence categorization; hence, the present experiment used an associative conditioning task (novel symbols paired with positively or negatively valenced photographs) to create new preferences, thereby demonstrating that preference influences categorization independently of preexisting expertise. These findings cast new light on established theory of affect and cognitive processing and suggest new implications for consumer preference and goal pursuit.
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