"Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world," said Professor Joseph Forgas of the University of New South Wales.
"Our research suggests that sadness promotes information processing strategies best suited to dealing with more demanding situations."
For the study, Dr Forgas's team conducted experiments that started with inducing happy or sad moods in subjects through watching films and recalling positive or negative events. Asked to judge urban myths and rumours, people in a negative mood were less likely to believe these statements.
People in a bad mood were also less likely to make snap decisions based on racial or religious prejudices, or make mistakes when asked to recall an event that they witnessed.
The study also found that sad people were better at stating their case through written arguments, which Forgas said showed that a "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style".
"People in negative mood are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eyewitness distortions and are better at producing high-quality, effective persuasive messages," Forgas wrote.