Bruce Bower wrote about the cognitive benefits of a blue mood in “The bright side of sadness” (SN: 11/2/13, p. 18). A negative mood can increase recall, attention to detail and a sense of fairness to others, the article noted.
Bower’s story was the most read on the Science News website in October, with a spike of more than 94,000 views after being posted on the social news site reddit.com. Reddit reader DrMasterBlaster, self-described as a graduate student studying negative emotions, commented that “everyone assumes that negative affect [meaning bad feelings or emotions] is always bad, and that isn’t always the case.
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Additionally, there’s this idea that to make a good decision we must be emotionless automatons, which is also not the case.
Emotions are just another source of information, so while we shouldn’t be ruled by affect, it can and does provide us with important decision-making information.”
On the Science News website, stmccrea commented, “It seems obvious that emotions are part of our survival system. It’s high time we stopped viewing any inconvenient emotion as pathological — we need our emotions to make sense of the world.”
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And finally, one reader hoped to use the story to her advantage. Maja Ramirez quoted from Bower’s story: “People in sad moods show a greater willingness to work on demanding tasks … and are more concerned with being fair to others.”
So, Ramirez e-mailed, “if I nag my husband enough about the undone things on his ‘honey-do’ list, he should be bothered enough to not only take up his tools and get to work, but to admit I was right all along?” It depends, Bower responds.
The “down” moods that were beneficial in studies were not full of high-intensity emotions. “Everything hinges on nagging your husband into a sad mood,” Bower says. “If you nag him into anger, frustration or a glazed state of inattention, don’t expect him to bounce off the couch.”