New research identifies role of mood in making decisions

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San Francisco, Aug 29 (IANS) People tend to engage in unpleasant but necessary activities, such as paying bills or doing housework, when they are in a good mood and choose pleasurable activities as a way to feel better when they are in a bad mood, according to new research by a psychologist at Stanford University.

“These findings clarify how emotions shape behaviour and may explain how humans trade off short-term happiness for long-term welfare,” Xinhua quoted James Gross, a professor of psychology, as saying.

“Overcoming such trade-offs might be critical for our personal well-being and our survival as a species,” Gross added.

In their study, Gross and his fellow researchers used a smartphone app to randomly survey the activities and moods of more than 60,000 people over an average of 27 days, and found that mood plays a strong role in how people decide to spend their time each day.

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Gross and his co-authors of a paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, call this dynamic “hedonic flexibility,” namely people tend to use their good mood as a resource, allowing them to work on challenges, thus delaying short-term gratification for long-term benefits, such as regular sleep.

The study showed that “hedonic flexibility” was consistently practiced in a range of daily choices made by respondents, such as when an upbeat mood helps one endure a long line at, say, the post office or grocery.

The researchers believe the smartphone app used in the research might one day prove useful as a “self-management” tool for people to work on their “to do” lists based on their existing moods. Once the app is fully tested, the goal is to make it available for public download.

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