Good mood makes people 'different'
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Good mood makes people 'different'

People in an upbeat mood are more exploratory and daring in attitude and, therefore, more apt to break from cultural stereotype, according to a study.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2009 13:32 IST

People in an upbeat mood are more exploratory and daring in attitude and, therefore, more apt to break from cultural stereotype, according to a study.

Bad mood, on the other hand, reinforces traditional cultural stereotypes and constrains people to think about the world.

These are the finding of a study led by Psychologists Claire Ashton-James of the University of British Columbia, William W. Maddux from INSEAD, Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, and Tanya Chartrand from Duke University.

The researchers revealed that they wanted to study whether something as potent as culture might be tied to normal mood swings, and chose East-West cultural difference for their research because it is well established.

The researchers pointed out that European cultures are known to value independence and individuality, whereas Asian cultures prize community and harmony.

Those participating in the study consisted of students hailing from a number of different countries, and the researchers unconsciously raised or lowered their moods through two different methods.

In one study, the volunteers were made to hear some upbeat Mozart on the stereo to lift their moods, or some Rachmaninov to bring them down.

In another study, the volunteers held pens in their mouths: some held the pen with their teeth, which basically forces the face into a smile, which improves mood. Others held the pen with their lips, forcing a frown.

The researchers made the volunteers complete a variety of tests, each designed to measure the strength of their values.

One test offered the volunteers a choice of five pens, four blue and one red. In keeping with cultural values, Asians typically pick from the more common blue pens in this test — to be part of the group — while Westerners usually take the one red pen.

Another test had the volunteers think about the questions "Who am I?" and listed 20 answers.

The lists were analysed to see whether they reflected predominantly individualistic or predominantly group values.

The researchers observed that feeling good did indeed encourage both European and Asian volunteers, shaped their behaviour, and allowed them to act “out of character”. Feeling bad did the opposite.

Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that emotions may serve an important social purpose, and that positive feelings may send a signal that it''s safe to broaden one''s view of the world — and to explore novel notions of one''s self.

The researchers go on to indicate that negative feelings may send a signal that it''s time to circle the wagons and stick with the "tried and true".

The study’s findings also suggest that the "self" may not be as robust and static as we like to believe, and that the self may be dynamic, constructed again and again from one''s situation, heritage and mood.

A research article on the study has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

First Published: Apr 16, 2009 13:23 IST