How do we observe people properly

psychology : Sad people have sharper senses

“A bachelorette is a woman who, fortunately, has no husband.” Aphorisms often thrive on their ambiguity - especially when it is so hidden that it only reveals itself on reading it a second time. Sad people seem to have a particularly fine sense of sentences that can be interpreted in different ways. This is shown by a study by Australian psychologists in the "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology".

The scientists put almost 90 test persons in a positive or negative mood by showing them funny or sad film clips. Then the participants were asked to evaluate different sentences as to whether they were ambiguous or not. The happy subjects were correct only in every fourth case, whereas the depressed subjects were correct in every third case. At the same time, the sad test subjects took significantly longer to make their judgment and later remembered the individual sentences better.

How people process linguistic information seems to depend to a large extent on mood. When something is bothering us, we pay attention to semantic subtleties that we might overlook if we were in a good mood. This effect is probably not limited to language. "Negative moods have far-reaching effects on our perception," says study director Joseph Forgas from the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Forgas has long been researching the influence of feelings and moods on human behavior and has already published a number of results: In rainy weather, passers-by are more likely to remember details from their surroundings than in sunshine. Sad people find it easier to expose liars. Depressed people can argue better - they are more likely to convince their listeners.

Psychologists now interpret such results against the background of the history of development. Accordingly, moods take on an (unconscious) signaling function: If we feel good, it means that there is no danger from the environment. So we can unwind our usual behavioral repertoire without having to pay attention to what exactly is going on around us.

Negative moods, on the other hand, may signal a problem that we need to respond to. To do this, we are forced to take a closer look (or listen). You could also say: sadness sharpens the senses.

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