Where Do Bad Moods Come From?无名怒火缘自何处?

What causes bad moods? Why do we sometimes slip into angry fits and melancholy torpors? In general, happy moods have easy explanations – we know why we’re elated. But a bad mood often seems to arrive out of the blue, a gloomy weather pattern that settles in from everywhere all at once. All of a sudden, we find ourselves pissed off without a good reason, which only makes us more pissed off.

坏情绪究竟是怎么产生的?为什么我们的愤怒会忽然爆发,或者会被忧郁忽然占据?一般来说,愉快的情绪很容易解释,我们总是知道自己为什么高兴。但坏情绪似乎总是从天而降,就像忽然笼罩大地的阴云。猛然间我们就没来由地烦得要死,而这只会让我们更烦恼。

The standard theory of bad moods is rooted in a psychological quirk known as ego depletion. Pioneered by Roy Baumeister and Mark Muraven in the 1990s, the basic idea behind ego depletion is that self-control and willpower are limited cognitive resources. As a result, when we overexert ourselves in one domain – say, when we’re on a strict diet, or focused on a difficult task for hours at work – we have fewer resources left over to exert self-control in other domains. This helps explain why, after a long day at the office, we’re more likely to indulge in a pint of ice cream, or eat one too many slices of pizza. A tired brain, preoccupied with its problems, is going to struggle to resist what it wants, even when what it wants isn’t what we need.

有关坏情绪的标准理论源于心理学上的“自我损耗”。罗伊•鲍迈斯特(Roy Baumeister)和马克•穆拉文(Mark Muraven)于1990年开拓了这一基本理论,他们认为自我损耗背后的原理是自我控制和意志力是有限的认知资源。因此,当我们在某一方面过度控制自己时(例如严格节食,或几小时集中精力工作),我们的自我控制资源会所剩无几,无法在其它领域发挥作用。这也就解释了在办公室辛苦一天之后,我们更有可能放纵自己吃一罐冰激凌,或者多吃几块匹萨。全神贯注解决难题的大脑很疲惫,难以拒绝它的欲望,即便它想要的我们并不需要。

A bad mood is no different. When we push our mind too hard, asking it to refrain from carbs and cigarettes, we struggle to avoid the negative thoughts and emotions that lead to sour moods. Consider this 2007 study: The scientists told subjects to refrain from eating a tempting chocolate donut for a few minutes. Then, they insulted these poor (and probably hungry) experimental volunteers. Not surprisingly, those who had successfully resisted the donut were more likely to get aggressive in response to the insult. Or look at the medical literature, in which people on diets are typically “irritable and aggressive.” (This is the so-called cranky dieter effect.) Although we’d like to be happy and polite, those positive moods take cognitive work, and our brain is too tired to care. We lose our temper because we lack the willpower to swallow our angry words.

坏情绪也同样如此。当我们对自己大脑要求太高,努力戒绝碳水化合物或香烟时,我们很难避开那些负面的想法和情绪。来看看2007年的这项研究,科学家要求志愿者在几分钟时间内抵抗巧克力面包圈的诱惑。之后,他们侮辱这些可怜(也许还饿着肚子)的志愿者。不出所料,那些成功抵抗面包圈诱惑的人更可能以攻击性的姿态面对辱骂。或者来看看医学资料中的描述,节食中的人通常“易怒而好斗”。尽管我们很努力想要开心而有礼貌,但积极情绪需要消耗认知能量,我们的大脑太累,无法顾及这些事。我们发火是因为缺少压住怒火的意志力。

A brand new paper, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, extends this link between self-control and anger, even as it complicates the ego-depletion model. In a series of clever studies, the Northwestern psychologists David Gal and Wendy Liu demonstrate that the exertion of self-control doesn’t just make it harder for us to contain our own anger – it also make us more interested in watching anger-themed movies, or thinking about anger-related information, or looking an angry facial expressions. In other words, acts of self-control haven’t just exhausted the ego – they actually seem to have pissed it off.

《消费者研究杂志》上发表的一篇新文章扩展了自我控制与愤怒之间的联系,同时也将自我损耗模型变得更加复杂。在一系列巧妙的研究中,心理学家大卫•盖尔(David Gal)和温迪•刘(Wendy Liu)阐明,努力控制自我不仅会让我们难以控制脾气,还会让我们对愤怒主题的电影、有关愤怒的信息,或者愤怒的面部表情感兴趣。换句话说,自我控制的行为不仅消耗了自我,还会激怒自我。

My favorite experiment involved movies. Two hundred and thirty nine subjects were given a choice between a virtuous apple and a hedonistic chocolate bar. (A slim majority chose the apple.) Then, they were offered a selection of movies to watch, from Anger Management (an anger themed film) to Billy Madison (a non-anger themed film.) Interestingly, students were significantly more likely to choose the angry films if they’d first chosen the apple. And it wasn’t just films: another experiment found that people who exercised financial restraint – they chose a gift certificate for groceries over one for spa services – were more interested in looking at angry faces.

我最喜欢的实验是跟电影有关的。239名受试者需要在“道德”的苹果和“堕落”的巧克力中作出选择。(只有少数人选了苹果。)之后,他们可以选择自己要看的电影,从《愤怒管理》(主题是愤怒)到《阿呆闯学堂》(主题与愤怒无关)。有趣的是,选择了苹果的学生更可能选择观看愤怒电影。不仅是电影,另一项实验发现,限制自我消费(选择商店礼品卡而不是spa套餐)的人对愤怒的脸更感兴趣。

What’s driving this effect? Gal and Liu argue that the preference for angry stuff is not simply a result of ego depletion. Instead, they speculate that self-control is inherently aggravating. Perhaps choosing the apple annoys us because our goals have been thwarted – we really wanted the candy bar – or maybe we’re pissed because we feel that our sense of autonomy has been diminished. (If we weren’t so constrained by societal norms and expectations, we would have gorged on chocolate.) The point is that the labor of self-control directly inspires our tendency towards anger, and not indirectly via a worn down prefrontal cortex.

这种效应是由什么驱动的?盖尔和刘认为,对愤怒内容的偏好不仅仅是自我消耗的结果。相反,他们发现自我控制本身就有激怒人的能力。也许选择苹果让我们烦恼,是因为愿望被阻挠了——我们本来其实是想吃巧克力的,或者我们烦恼,是因为觉得自治权被剥夺了。(如果没有那么多社会准则的约束,我们本可以吃巧克力吃到饱的。)重点是,自我控制劳神费力,直接激发了我们的愤怒倾向,而不是通过前额叶皮层间接发出警告。

So the next time you decide to resist some treat, be it a day at the spa or a pint of Haagen-Dazs, be sure to keep a few cognitive resources in reserve. You’ll need them to keep the urges of anger at bay.

因此,下回在抵挡美食诱惑的时候,无论是spa一日游还是一大罐哈根达斯,别忘了保留一点认知资源。你需要用它来压制怒火。

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