Is Sadder Really Wiser?

Wray Herbert has an excellent new piece at The Huffington Post about research testing whether sadness has a  beneficial or negative effect on decision making. From the piece:

Nobody likes to feel bad. Sadness saps our energy and motivation. Melancholy wrecks our health and invites disease. Misery leaves us -- well, miserable. Yet many experts believe that these negative emotions have an upside, that they clarify our thinking and foster more deliberate and careful decision making. Some even say that sadness is a reality check on unwarranted optimism and self-regard.

That's the so-called "sadder but wiser" theory. But is it true? Isn't it equally as plausible that sadness and melancholy sabotage some kinds of thinking, and lead to questionable choices and judgments? A team of psychological scientists -- Jennifer Lerner of Harvard and Ye Li and Elke Weber of Columbia -- call this the "myopic misery" theory. Since sadness arises from a sense of loss, they reason, isn't it possible that it triggers an unconscious need to replace what's been lost, and that this need leads in turn to a sense of urgency and impatience -- and thus to rushed decisions? They decided to pit the two competing theories against each other in the laboratory.   

Read the entire piece at The Huffington Post

Posted on May 11, 2012 .