The vexed, tortured, troubled genius is a familiar figure. But as everyone from Holden Caulfield to Dr. Gregory House eventually learns, sadness isn't really the key to brilliance. Or is it?

Economist Tyler Cowen chews over the question while reviewing a new study that may show such a connection. The study finds a relationship between negative mood and "attentive, careful thinking" and "paying greater attention to the external world." It also finds that happiness helps promote creativity, but that happy people often employ "mental shortcuts." Sad people also have the advantage at "stating their case through written arguments."

All this leads Cowen to ponder: "Does being sad, or complaining, make you smarter?"