Can being grumpy improve our thinking?

One Foot In The Grave British TV series

Mood disorders like anxiety and depression generally interfere with thinking and creativity.

But what about being grumpy?

Here is an intriguing news story from the Daily Mail (UK) on the topic, with references to a popular British TV comedy series –

Why being grumpy like Victor Meldrew is good for you, as scientists find it improves memory

By Richard Shears

Richard WilsonPhoto: The fictional character of Victor Meldrew, played by Richard Wilson, in the BBC TV comedy series One Foot In The Grave’ (1990-2001) embraced the spirit of grumpiness.

The archetypal grumpy old man became famous for saying, ‘I don’t believe it!’

If you’re feeling like a sourpuss today, it may not be a reason to frown.

For, according to research, being grumpy makes us better at decision-making and less gullible.

In contrast, those annoying happy types who tell us to cheer up tend to make more mistakes because they’ll believe anything they’re told.

The revelations come from a psychology expert who has been studying the effects of positive and negative emotions.

Professor Joseph Forgas found those in a bad mood provide more accurate eyewitness accounts of events than those in a good mood.

A series of experiments also backed up his findings that the grumpier we are, the more likely we are to get problems sorted out and make less errors.

‘Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world,’ Professor Forgas writes in Australian Science Journal.

A sad person can cope with more demanding situations than a happy one because of the way the brain ‘promotes information processing strategies’, he says.

His experiments included asking people to judge the truth of urban myths after putting them into good or bad moods through watching films.

The sad group were less likely to believe the stories.

Professor Forgas, of the University of New South Wales, also found negativity promoted better communication.

Source: 03rd November 2009.


Related article: Depression’s Machismo Mask By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times.
“You might call it melancholy on steroids — a muscular mixture of fast-driving, heavy drinking, hard-charging cussedness.”

This article mentions the book The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression by Jed Diamond.

His newer book is Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome.


Does a positive mood always support creative expression?

Painter Robert Genn notes writer Eric Wilson disparages our current love affair with putting on a happy face.

With our “feel good” culture and the widespread use of happy drugs, everybody’s trying to be cheerful and there are no decent dollops of melancholy and sadness, he says.

When this happens, art becomes bland, unchallenging and redundant.

From article Robert Genn on Melancholy, Art and Happiness.


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