Mood and Reality: Mood’s Ability to Shape Perception and Interactions

realityWe have been thinking for a while about how mood powerfully creates our reality. And how hard it is to hold on to a consistent sense of the world as moods change.

Mood affects what we notice and remember and how we see it. It also affects where our thoughts naturally tend to go.

We ran across an intriguing article in Psychiatric News yesterday that reminds us that mood also changes how people interact with us.

The Time (8/23, Szalavitz) “Healthland” reports, “Two fascinating recent studies — one on confidence; the other exploring social fears — reveal how our own positive and negative stances work to alter our relationships and careers.” A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology “explored the positive effects of overconfidence, showing that it enhances social status by presenting a false image of competence.” Meanwhile, another study published in realityOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, examined paranoia “and how people’s negative perceptions of the world can become their own self-fulfilling prophecies,” finding “that people’s fears about being viewed negatively by others actually influenced those views themselves.” 

Here is an interesting irony, many psychological studies find that when we are very slightly depressed we perceive the world more accurately than when we are in a “normal” mood. And when we are very slightly hypomanic we perceive the world even less accurately.

In other words, put a slightly depressed person into a social situation and they will accurately perceive the other person’s emotional reactions, doubts, positive feelings, etcetera. Put a person in a “normal” mood in that same situation and they will be less accurate. And a hypomanic person will be even less accurate.

However, at the end of an hour of interaction, they hypomanic person’s initial assessment may be confirmed because their natural enthusiasm and optimism will tend to convince others that they know what they are talking about.

This reminds us of the “Law of Attraction,” which we first heard about from a young woman who essentially made the idea the basis of a very successful consulting career.

The law of attraction can be a mystical notion of karma – who we are and how we are in the world affects what happens to us. Or it can be understood as a reflection of the various ways that mood affects reality. The actual phrase “law of attraction” first shows up in books from 1915 and 1919.

More recently the idea shows up in the book and movie The Secret (2006) and Esther and Jerry Hicks’s book Money and the Law of Attraction: Learning to Attract Health, Wealth & Happiness (2008).

Other related ideas are the notion of a “self confirming prophecy” –  Robert K. Merton is credited with coining the expression. In his book Social Theory and Social Structure, Merton explains the idea this way: “when Roxanna falsely believes her marriage will fail, her fears of such failure actually cause the marriage to fail.”

We have the typical skeptic’s view of some of the law of attraction books, but these would be a good introduction.