Why do bad moods increase self-defeating behavior?


Bad moods sap your willpower which leads to greater risk-taking:

Increased risk taking may explain the link between bad moods and self-defeating behavior. In Study 1, personal recollections of self-defeating actions implicated bad moods and resultant risky decisions. In Study 2, embarrassment increased the preference for a long-shot (high-risk, high-payoff) lottery over a low-risk, low-payoff one. Anger had a similar effect in Study 3. Study 4 replicated this and showed that the effect could be eliminated by making participants analyze the lotteries rationally, suggesting that bad moods foster risk taking by impairing self-regulation instead of by altering subjective utilities. Studies 5 and 6 showed that the risky tendencies are limited to unpleasant moods accompanied by high arousal; neither sadness nor neutral arousal resulted in destructive risk taking.

Source: “Why do bad moods increase self-defeating behavior? Emotion, risk taking, and self-regulation.” from J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996 Dec;71(6):1250-67.

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