Being told you are moody is usually taken as less than a compliment, but new research suggests that being moody can actually have some significant advantages. This may come as a surprise to those who view emotional volatility as an obstacle to focused, rational thinking. But what those who disregard mood are missing is that emotions draw on past experiences and evaluates them according to present conditions. This process actually gives people who can tune into their own moods more easily a significant advantage when adapting to a changing environment.
To show how this works, researchers give the example of a stock broker who makes some unexpected profits in the stock market that elevate his mood. This boost of positive emotion will prompt the trader to make more bold decisions that are in line with the quickly changing market, which has been shown to be on the rise.
Such a situation has led researchers to theorize that mood colors the experiences we learn from. In this sense, mood helps not only to correctly evaluate the potential rewards available in certain situations, but also how available that reward is in light of recent overall changes in the environment. In other words, mood provides a sort of accurate human reward radar that can scan an environment based on past experience and make good decisions for future outcomes.
This makes people who are moody better at assessing rewards which are the result of complex interrelated factors all acting simultaneously. Such a skill is useful not only in the natural world but also in the civilized world that humans have created. Moodiness then becomes advantageous in acquiring skills, material resources, social status, and even mating partners.
Whether the mood is positive or negative doesn’t matter. Both are useful. However they do max out at a certain level. They are only useful for as long as they reflect the reality of changing environments that offers varying access to rewards.
Scientists speculate that because moods are common to everyone, they must have been prevalent among our ancestors, and therefore played a key role in how we evolved. Moodiness, while irritating from a perspective that values emotional stability, can be very helpful when trying to adapt to sudden and all-encompassing environmental change. The power that emotions exert over our behavior is something that can be life saving when threatened with danger. Therefore, letting your emotions lead on quick decisions can be a good thing.
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