Are Bad Moods Good for You?

According to new research, reported by Reuters and featured in the November/December issue of the Australasian Science journal, thinking negatively and being sad makes people less gullible, improves their ability to judge others and boosts memory.


Psychology professor Joseph Forgas (University of South Wales), who authored the study, says that people in a bad mood paid more attention to and were more critical of their surroundings than happy people, who were more likely to believe whatever they were told. “Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking paying greater attention to the external world,” Forgas wrote. He adds that his research indicates that sadness makes individuals better suited to dealing with more demanding situations.

For the study, the researchers induced happy or sad moods in their subjects through films and recalling positive or negative events. The researchers then found the unhappy participants were less likely to believe urban myths and make snap judgments based on religious or racial prejudices. Unhappy people made better, more accurate witnesses and were also better at expressing a case through written arguments. Writes Forgas: “Positive mood is not universally desirable: people in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages.”