Being in a bad mood may improve some people’s executive functioning, such as their ability to focus attention, manage time and prioritize tasks.


Tara McAuley, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo, explored how mood influences the kinds of thinking skills needed to meet the demands of day-to-day life.

The study was published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences

“Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” said McAuley.


The high-reactive individuals — people who have rapid, intense, and enduring emotional responses — performed better on executive function tasks when experiencing a bad mood.

Low-reactive individuals showed the opposite effect, performing worse  on executive functioning when experiencing a bad mood.

The results suggest that a bad mood may help with some executive skills — but only for people who are more emotionally reactive.


“People shouldn’t interpret the results as saying it’s fine to fly off the handle or overreact, or to be grouchy,” said McAuley.

“We know that emotional reactivity differs from person to person starting at a very early age and that these individual differences have implications for mental health later in development.”

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