Have you ever thought that feeling bad might, in fact, benefit you in some ways?

Positive thinking is currently one of the most popular concepts in psychology, as it seems to promote a number of different effects, such as elevating some of the symptoms of mental illness. However, in a crushing discovery from a team of US scientists, feeling bad can make you smarter.

In order to achieve this study, scientist Barbara Ehrenreich put together a group of people and conducted an experiment in order to determine how mood determined our decisions.

The test subjects were asked to recall either good or bad memories in order to produce a certain mood reaction in the subject. Once this mood was created, the subjects were told urban myths, legends, and rumours, or asked to make a decision on a certain kind of prejudice.

Ultimately, it was found that those who were in a negative mood were far less likely to believe the fantasies and much less likely to make poor decisions, or base it on the prejudice put before them. Those who were in a positive mood seemed much more likely to believe the rumours and make poor decisions and judgements.

It was deemed that feeling bad can actually make us much more productive in our daily lives, as we think much more realistically, and therefore critically about our surroundings. This also allows us to remember a lot more about the situation because we are much more focused on what is in front of us rather than what has made us happy. This is much more desirable when trying to recall or retain information.

So this begs the question, do we really become smarter when we’re in a bad mood?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Where it is true that we are far more capable of taking in information and remembering it, we do not increase our IQ levels every time we get in an argument or stub our toe.

We are simply more critical of our surroundings and subsequently more tuned into what is going around us. When we are happy, on the other hand, we are almost in a slight dream world and focus much more on what has made us happy, and we can easily forget things that have happened or certain details of our surroundings or the situation.

However, there is also the issue of those who suffer from illnesses such as depression, who cannot change or help the sadness that they feel. In reality, there is some evidence to show that clinical depression can reduce cognitive ability due to the intensity of the feelings that it produces on the sufferer.

So this study does not prove that mental illness can actually make you smarter, it simply shows that when we are a bit grumpy and critical of the world around us we are far more likely to notice the little things around us, as well as being able to recall the information much more easily at a later date. Probably because it was irritating us at the time!

So it seems that feeling bad is not entirely bad for you after all…


  1. Reuters
  2. Scientific American

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Ganesh Kumar Narljarla

    This is something new to learn . First when I saw this post I was so judgemental and against it. But after going through entire content I realised its truly enlightening, Thanks for sharing.

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