Sad moods tend to improve analytical thinking

Research by Michel Tuan Pham, a professor at Columbia Business School, is discussed in Columbia Business School Ideas , Nov. 15, 2007. His findings jibe with other findings that lawyers, in comparison to the general public, tend to be skeptical, risk averse, cautious and worried.

“Generally, sad moods tend to promote better analytical thinking. In addition, while both good and bad intense moods can reduce overall reasoning abilities, intense emotional states may have played an evolutionary role in helping people make quick assessments in do-or-die situations. Good moods, which enable creativity but trigger less rigorous analysis, promote more contemplative thinking and explorative behaviors during less stressful interludes.” Sadly, close legal reasoning may happen better when a lawyer feels despondent.

“There is usually a very good rational basis for our emotions,” says Pham. “We should keep in mind that they mostly help us.” You may be blue, but your legal reasoning is red hot.

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