Grumpy People Work Best
Don't be so quick to write off that dour curmudgeon sitting next to you in the office -- he could be doing better work than you are, according to a new study done by an Australian behavioral expert. Professor Joe Forgas claims that grumpy people think more clearly, are better at decision-making and are less gullible.
If that's true, it could explain why the most cheerful and optimistic among us sometimes appear air-headed, unrealistic and naive. Their penchant for "putting on a happy face" might be hindering their ability to do more clear, concise and objective work, according to Forgas' research.
"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," Forgas says.
The psychology professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney came to the conclusion that a grumpy person can cope with and process demanding situations better than a happy person can after doing studies on the way the brain "promotes information processing strategy." To measure this, he asked volunteers to watch several different films. Some he asked to dwell on positive events while watching, others he asked to dwell on negative events. This was designed to either put them a good or bad mood.
Next he asked the volunteers to take part in a series of tasks that included judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of various events.Those who were put in a bad mood not only made fewer mistakes in these assignments, but they communicated better. Those in a good mood were more often inaccurate and gave more vague answers.
The study also found that the sad people were better at written arguments -- they stated a better case on paper than did those who were cheerful. Forgas says this shows that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodating and ultimately more successful communication style."
Could this explain why many of the world's greatest writers seem to be tortured and angst-ridden? Could it also be why we tend to take the excessively happy and cheerful among us less seriously? Whatever the case, you might want to think twice before you try to cheer up your gloomy colleagues. They might be in the midst of doing their greatest and most effective work yet.