Mood swings and biased perceptions are usually regarded as disadvantageous and irrational. However, a recent study claims that changes in mood draw on experiences and can potentially help us adapt to our environments more efficiently. For instance, a mood-enhancing experience can motivate an individual to take more risks and challenge themselves.
Mood Swings Experiences
The new theory suggests that learning from experiences that influence moods affects an individual’s expectations, not only in terms of rewards associated with each state of mind, but also the overall availability of a potential reward in their surroundings. This allows different moods to impact our learning processes of general environmental factors.
“This effect of mood will be useful whenever different sources of reward are interconnected, or have an underlying momentum,” stated lead author, Eran Eldar of University College London. “This is often the case in natural as well as modern scenarios, since successes in acquiring skills, material resources, social status, and even mating partners influence one another”.
Positive And Negative Moods
The researchers observed that positive and negative moods maximize usefulness by persisting to a point where expectations are exactly in accordance with changes in reward. This might be the reason why happiness eventually returns to a baseline level after achieving a significantly high level of ecstasy.
For example, a negative mood that lingers on might cause an individual to perceive future outcomes as being worse than they actually are which eventually leads to a downward spiral and the onset of depression.
Insights Into Mood Disorders
By defining a role for different moods and explaining the underlying learning process, this theory might help develop a deeper understanding into mood disorders.
“This novel approach could help uncover what predisposes certain individuals to bipolar disorder and depression”, Eldar suggets.
Since moods have a significant impact on our lives, it might be possible that they confer some sort of competitive advantage via evolution. So, being moody sometimes could do you good – adapting to momentous external changes could make you a much smarter, stronger person. The study appears in Trends in Cognitive Sciences .