A new study found that being in a bad mood can help some people’s executive functioning, such as their ability to focus attention, manage time and prioritize tasks.
In addition, a good mood has a negative effect on it in some cases.
Researchers from the University of Waterloo explored whether our emotions influenced thinking skills we need to navigate the demands and stresses of day-to-day life.
Emotional reactivity includes the sensitivity, intensity and duration of our emotional responses associated with our mood.
The study included 95 participants, each of whom completed nine distinct tasks and questionnaires that measure the interplay of mood, emotional reactivity and various working memory and analytic challenges.
The researchers find that the high-reactive individuals —people who have rapid, intense, and enduring emotional responses—performed better on executive function tasks when experiencing a bad mood.
On the other hand, low-reactive individuals showed the opposite effect, with bad mood associated with worse executive functioning.
The results support the view that a bad mood may help with some executive skills – but only for people who are more emotionally reactive.
The team suggests that people shouldn’t interpret the results as saying it’s fine to fly off the handle or overreact, or to be grouchy.
Emotional reactivity differs from person to person starting at a very early age and these individual differences can affect mental health later in development.
McAuley and Gabel’s paper appears in the journal, Personality and Individual Differences.
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