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Moody? It's Actually A Good Thing, Science Says

First Posted: Nov 04, 2015 01:26 PM EST
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Sometimes, people are moody. And while being irrational at times isn't typically the smartest idea, it may help us adapt quickly to new changes, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University College London noted a new theory that shows how we learn from experiences that are shaped by mood. Based on our mood--which is associated by a reward we've come to know with a particular state as well as changes related to the environment that come with the reward--mood allows for both adaptation and learning.

"This effect of mood should be useful whenever different sources of reward are interconnected or possess an underlying momentum," said one of the study's lead authors, Eran Eldar of University College London, in a news release. "That may often be the case in the natural as well as in the modern world, as successes in acquiring skills, material resources, social status, and even mating partners may all affect one another."

This may also explain why the majority of us are not incredibly happy or sad all the time. For instance, once a reward has been met from a certain situation that accentuates a more extreme mood, our feelings typically return to more of a baseline level. But for those who have moods that are consistently more extreme--for example, someone whose mood is consistently negative--this might lead to a "self-fulfilling prophecy" that results in the onset of a depressive episode, researchers say. In the future, this research may potentially help explain the causes of some mood disorders.

The study is published in the journal Cell Press.

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