Next time you’re in a bad mood, don’t fight it. Put it to work, and thank evolution for giving you such a flexible cognitive toolbox.
That’s one of the take-home messages in behavioral sciences writer Bruce Bower’s article about the unexpected benefits of negative moods. Gloomy moods just make people better suited to certain tasks. Years of laboratory studies show that a low mood — a diffuse, lingering and largely unconscious state distinct from an intensely experienced burst of emotion — can improve memory, judgment, motivation and consideration of others. Some research suggests that a bad mood promotes shifting to alternative ways of thinking about a problem, while a good mood encourages people to stay the course. Of course, happy moods have their advantages too: creative, big-picture thinking is one. Psychologist Joseph Forgas of the University of New South Wales in Sydney believes that that’s as it should be, and worries that