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Psychology 101: What Is Mood Freezing?

Explore the history and modern-day application of mood freezing, a key concept featured in many BS in Psychology programs.

The modern-day concept of mood freezing began as an experiment conducted by researchers in 1984. It has since turned into a widespread approach leveraged by psychology professionals to help treat clients. If you’re looking to pursue a psychology degree—such as a BS in Psychology—it is terminology that you likely will encounter.

In short, it can be described like this: When people are angry, they believe venting their frustration will help them to feel better. However, when they believe they can’t get riled up (because their mood has been frozen), they tend to find more effective techniques to let go of their anger. Details of the mood-freezing experiment will paint an even better picture of the concept.

Placebos were incorporated into the first-ever mood-freezing experiment.
As defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a placebo is an inactive substance or treatment that looks the same as, and is given in the same way as, an active drug or intervention/treatment being studied.1 In the 1984 experiment, researchers intentionally irritated participants prior to distributing “mood-freezing pills.” Participants were then instructed that these pills would cause their current mood to become temporarily fixed—incapable of change. In actuality, these pills were placebos that had no effects at all.

In response to the placebo pills, participants expressed less frustration.
The objective of the mood-freezing experiment was to challenge the notion that letting out anger is necessary for emotional regulation and may in fact cause more harm. Researchers found that study participants—who initially believed that venting improves their mood—expressed less frustration during the experiment.2 This was due to thinking that venting anger would be a futile way to feel better since the administered pill had produced a frozen agitated state.

Participants then relied upon other self-regulation and coping strategies.
Since blowing off steam the conventional way was off the table, experiment participants resorted to trying alternative methods. These strategies included practicing relaxation techniques—like deep breathing and meditation—looking for distractions, and simply allowing the situation to unfold without attempting to control it. As a result, participants were able to accept their circumstances, and this acceptance was shown to ultimately improve their mood.2

Researchers concluded the following takeaways, which inform the application of mood-freezing techniques by psychology degree holders and professionals today:2

  • Venting anger can cause more harm than good. Not only can it magnify negative emotions, but it can also create relational conflicts and issues.
  • Mood freezing can help you stay in a position of control over your anger, as opposed to your anger being in control of you.
  • You can avoid worsening your mood. Venting can quickly turn into lashing out, which often prompts feelings of regret once things calm down.
  • Discussing feelings and issues can still be a helpful practice—but more so once frustration has subsided and conversations can be non-aggressive.
  • Thinking can become clearer and more logical when you allow anger and stress—which can cloud judgment and decision-making—to dissipate.

Earn Your Bachelor’s in Psychology and Begin a Rewarding Career in Psychology

Walden University offers the environment and support you need to pursue your psychology degree and jump-start your career. In the BS in Psychology program, you can gain deeper insights into human behavior as well as the critical thinking skills to assess psychological principles, research, and theories. Choose from five concentrations—including Addiction and Criminal Justice—as well as a General Concentration to center your studies on the career in psychology you want. And at Walden, an accredited university, you can continue to work full time as you get your BS in Psychology. The convenient online learning platform enables you to decide when and where you do your psychology degree coursework. Take your future into your own hands as you earn your bachelor’s in psychology.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a BS in Psychology degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your psychology degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

1Source: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/about-studies/glossary
2Source: www.researchgate.net/publication/11867506_Do_people_aggress_to_improve_their_mood_Catharsis_beliefs_affect_regulation_opportunity_and_aggressive_responding

Note on licensure: The BS in Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology or counseling professional.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.  

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