womaninbadmoodAmericans are obsessed with happiness. We’re all about looking for it, finding it, talking about it, and examining it. I’m guilty myself. Whenever I hear claims that getting married makes you happier, I am all over them.

So when I found an alert in my inbox about a just published article reviewing the benefits of being in a bad mood, I had to read it and pass along what I learned. The author, leading mood researcher Joseph Forgas, is not defending intense and sustained bad feelings, just the mild, temporary unpleasant feelings that we all describe as being in a bad mood.

Here are 8 ways a bit of a bad mood can be a good thing:

  1. People in bad moods have better memories. In one study, for example, they remembered more details about the inside of a shop than did people in good moods. People in bad moods are also less likely to get tricked by misleading questions.
  2. People in bad moods are more accurate in their judgments. Social scientists have had a field day documenting judgmental biases; now mood researchers are showing that people in bad moods are less susceptible to those biases than people in good moods.
  3. People in bad moods are less gullible. For example, they are less likely to believe urban myths and they are also better at detecting deception.
  4. People in bad moods are less likely to stereotype other people, and they are less likely to act on negative stereotypical judgments.
  5. There are motivational benefits to bad moods. For example, people in bad moods persevere longer at difficult tasks.
  6. A bad mood can have its interpersonal advantages (though it is not always beneficial). For example, people in bad moods ask for things in more polite ways.
  7. People in bad moods are more fair and more just. Allowed to allocate a resource however they want, for example, they are more likely than people in a good mood to distribute the resource in a fair way rather than hogging it for themselves.
  8. People in bad moods are more persuasive – they come up with better arguments.

Reference: Forgas, J. P. (2013). Don’t worry, be sad! On the cognitive, motivational, and interpersonal benefits of negative mood. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 225-232.

Woman in bad mood image available from Shutterstock.