The Virtues of Sadness November 3, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, Science.
Tags: J.S. Mill and happiness, Joe Forgas
If you’re in a bad mood today, cheer up. At least your mood may be making you smarter.
According to this recent study:
Bad moods can actually be good for you, with an Australian study finding that being sad makes people less gullible, improves their ability to judge others and also boosts memory.
The study, authored by psychology professor Joseph Forgas at the University of New South Wales, showed that people in a negative mood were more critical of, and paid more attention to, their surroundings than happier people, who were more likely to believe anything 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.
“Our research suggests that sadness … promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations.” […]
The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a “mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style.”
But don’t cheer up too much; you will lose your edge.
At any rate, it looks like evidence for J.S. Mill’s claim—it is better to be an unhappy Socrates than a contented pig.
Furthermore, it might be that the causal arrow goes in the other direction–accurate assessments of reality make you sad and depressed.
Which might explain all those happy people watching Fox News.
For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com