Being in a Bad Mood Makes You More Detail-Oriented

by Derick SullivanJanuary 17, 2023


Don't go to bed angry, go to work.

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A new study by University of Arizona assistant professor of psychology and cognitive science Vicky Lai and researchers in the Netherlands found that when individuals were in a bad mood, they were able to identify mistakes in language much faster than individuals who were in a good mood.

"We show that when people are in a negative mood, they are more careful and analytical," Lai said in the report. "They scrutinize what's actually stated in a text, and they don't just fall back on their default world knowledge."

The researchers conducted the study by showing subjects clips from Sophie's Choice (negative mood group) or Friends (positive mood group). They found that those who watched clips from Friends did not have any change in mood. However, the group that watched clips of Sophie's Choice did report a more negative mood shift after.

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After watching the clips, participants read short stories that contained one critical error regarding inconsistencies in language and context. During the test, subjects' brain waves were measured by EEG to see how they reacted to the inconsistencies. Subjects each participated in the experiment twice (one time in each control group), with each trial a week apart from the other.

Those who were in a negative mood showed brain activity related to re-analysis, demonstrating a sense of carefulness when considering the errors.

"We show that mood matters, and perhaps when we do some tasks we should pay attention to our mood," Lai said in the report. "If we're in a bad mood, maybe we should do things that are more detail-oriented, such as proofreading."

So if you're having a bad day it might be a good idea to channel any frustration into re-reading an important document or editing a crucial email.

Related: Life Lessons: When You Hurt The Most, You Grow The Most


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