When being a grump is good for you

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© Mike Chick/Corbis

Being crabby may not be a good way to earn new friends, but when it comes to decision-making and critical thinking, grumps may have a leg up on those with a sunnier outlook, according to research published in the current issue of Australasian Science. As the BBC reports, Australian psychologist Joseph Forgas conducted experiments designed to test people when they were either in a good mood, or having negative thoughts. (He did this by having them watch movie clips that either invoked happy or sad emotions, and asking them to dwell on positive or negative aspects of their own lives.) From there, study participants were asked to perform a series of tasks that involved critical thinking, memory and decision-making, such as judging the value of urban myths, or accurately providing eye-witness accounts of events. Across the board, Forgas found, people in a bad mood tended to have sharper recollections of events they’d witnessed, tended not to believe urban legends described to them, and were also less likely to make rash decisions influenced by racial or religious prejudices.

Of course, that’s not to say that good moods aren’t useful too. While crabby people may approach the world with more critical outlooks and attention to detail, being in a positive mood, Forgas found, has been shown to improve creativity, cooperation and flexibility. Still, when it comes to writing, Forgas’ research suggests that, compared with happy folks, grumps were able to convey ideas with more clarity and precision.