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The Bright Side of the Blues

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On The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer explores the cognitive consequences of depression and happiness, explaining that the way we feel has a huge impact on the way we think. First, Jonah shares an article he wrote for the New York Times Magazine, in which he says the blues can be “a clarifying force, focusing the mind on its most essential problems.” For the notoriously down-in-the-dumps Charles Darwin, depression “may actually have accelerated the pace of his research, allowing him to withdraw from the world and concentrate entirely on his work.” Jonah answers critiques of his article, writing that “since 1980, the diagnosis of depression has been rapidly increasing across every segment of the population.” Jonah also weighs studies which show depressed people are prone to cognitive deficits, explaining that it’s hard to concentrate on “some artificial lab task” when the mind is wracked with painful thoughts. Finally, Jonah looks at the bright side, writing “while negative moods might promote focused attention and rigorous analysis, there’s good evidence that happiness promotes a more freewheeling kind of information processing.” So chin up, or chin down, keep the wheels turning.

Links below the fold.