According to an Australian researcher who studies human emotions, grumpy people think more clearly and are better able to cope with demanding situations than cheerful people.
“In contrast to those annoying happy types,” reported BBC.com, “miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible...While cheerfulness fosters creativity, gloominess breeds attentiveness and careful thinking.”
At the risk of ruining her reputation, Crabby Old Lady wholeheartedly endorses Professor Joe Forgas's work. His conclusions corroborate Crabby's long-held intuitive belief that those with more negative views of the world are generally smarter than Pollyannas and Crabby is pleased that someone with better credentials than she agrees.
(Crabby Old Lady does, however, take issue with the interchangeable use of the words grumpy, melancholy, depression, sadness, miserable, etc. “Grumpy,” like “crabby,” seems more superficial and transient to Crabby than “depression” and “melancholy” which are serious conditions, and “sadness,” a recurring emotional state everyone experiences depending on events and which passes with time.)
“Joe Forgas, a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has repeatedly demonstrated in experiments that negative moods lead to better decisions in complex situations,” writes Jonah Lehrer in The New York Times.
“The reason, Forgas suggests, is rooted in the intertwined nature of mood and cognition: sadness promotes 'information-processing strategies best suited to dealing with more-demanding situations.'
“This helps explain why test subjects who are melancholy — Forgas induces the mood with a short film about death and cancer — are better at judging the accuracy of rumors and recalling past events; they’re also much less likely to stereotype strangers.”
One of the reasons Forgas's (and others') findings about the relationship between negative feelings and better analytical function is interesting is that American culture leaves little room for anything but cheerfulness. We are exhorted to always smile, be upbeat, put on a happy face which has been a lifelong personal burden to Crabby.
She was born with a face that when it is doing nothing but hanging out – reading a book, for example, or just thinking – looks angry or sad or, perhaps, something in between. Many people, starting with her parents when she was a kid, ask, “What's wrong, Crabby?” And nothing was or is – for the question continues to come up even in her old age.
Whatever our facial expression, it seems to Crabby that most of the time we live in emotional neutral, neither happy nor sad, but the pressure to always appear happy is enormous – as the billion-dollar prescription anti-depressant market attests.
Enough evidence has been gathered by Professor Forgas and other researchers to be able to state that sadness (depression, melancholy, whatever word you choose) makes us smarter:
“[Evolutionary psychologist, Paul] Andrews found a significant correlation between depressed affect and individual performance on the intelligence test, at least once the subjects were distracted from their pain: lower moods were associated with higher scores. 'The results were clear,' Andrews says. 'Depressed affect made people think better.'”
While Crabby Old Lady is not, in the clinical definition, depressed, she is definitely pissed off a good deal of the time (and believes that if you aren't, you're not paying attention). She is “happy” to find out that her state of mind is probably good for her and helps keep her sharp.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judy Watten: Adventures with Obituaries