Reading bad news often can help with mood

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(rangizzz/shutterstock.com)

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, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

If reading bad news first thing in the morning sets a negative tone for your entire day, a new study offers a novel solution, without having to avoid media altogether.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences found that repeated exposure to a negative event neutralizes its effect on your mood and your thinking.

"A bad mood is known to slow cognition," said Dr. Moshe Shay Ben-Haim. "We show that, counterintuitively, you can avoid getting into a bad mood in the first place by dwelling on a negative event."

"If you look at the newspaper before you go to work and see a headline about a bombing or tragedy of some kind, it's better to read the article all the way through and repeatedly expose yourself to the negative information," he said. "You will be freer to go on with your day in a better mood and without any negative effects."

To reach their findings, 121 subjects were shown a number of words and asked to name the colors in which they are printed, a well-known psychological test called the emotional Stroop task. In general, it takes people longer to identify the colors of negative words like "terrorism" than of neutral words like "table," the researchers said, because it's often thought that negative words are either more distracting or more threatening. The trend is particularly pronounced in people with emotional disorders, like depression or anxiety.

Yet the researchers found that after being shown the same negative word only twice, subjects were able to identify the ink color without a delay. On the other hand, when people are shown the negative words just once, they subsequently name the ink colors of neutral words more slowly, meaning that the negative words affected their mood, the researchers said.

The takeaway is that while negative words can affect mood, through repetition, these words lose their power.

The study, announced this week, was recently published in journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics.


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