It Actually Might Pay To Be Negative — Here's Why

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Anger_ZhangQingyun_slideIllustrated By Zhang Qingyun.
In our professional lives as well as our relationships, we're told over and over again that a little positivity goes a long way. Conjuring a happy attitude, however, is easier said than done — especially if years of stubborn negative-Nancy tendencies have blackened our hearts. Well, all you cloudy dispositions out there may have the last laugh, after all. A new study published in the journal Social Psychology suggests that those with negative attitudes could be more focused and productive than their cheerful counterparts.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication surveyed 100 adults between the ages of 18 and 59 on how they spend their time, asking them to report how many days a week they did a variety of activities, from volunteering to exercise to spending time with friends. Then, the participants completed a quiz to determine whether they generally had "positive or negative responses to stimuli." In other words, they were analyzed to see whether they were Negative Nancies, Positive Patties, or somewhere in between.

The team then crunched the numbers to see how those attitudes related to everyday behavior. They found that those who were more positive and excited by stimuli tended to have busier lives and engaged in a larger variety of activities, while the opposite was true for their more negative counterparts. Keep in mind, though, that the study didn't address the effect of someone's job on their behavior; it's not hard to imagine that a stressful work life would result in less-than-exciting free time habits, even for the most positive among us.

It's not terribly surprising that Debbie Downers are less likely to try new things and socialize with many different groups. But, this finding could provide insight into other ways a negative attitude affects different aspects of life. Most interestingly, the researchers assert that Negative Nancies' narrow breadth of interests and activities could translate into a more intense ability to focus, especially at work. Conversely, positive folks' free-time ADD might make them more likely to get distracted and jump around from task to task.

What do you think? Could negativity really be a blessing in disguise? Sound off in the comments below.