A good mood reduces working memory capacity

April, 2011

A new study suggests a positive mood affects attention by using up some of your working memory capacity.

Following earlier research suggesting mood affects attention, a new study tries to pin down exactly what it’s affecting.

To induce different moods, participants were shown either a video of a stand-up comedy routine or an instructional video on how to install flooring. This was followed by two tests, one of working memory capacity (the Running Memory Span), during which numbers are presented through headphones at a rate of four numbers per second ending with subjects asked to recall the last six numbers in order, and one of response inhibition (the Stroop task).

Those that watched the comedy routine performed significantly worse on the RMS task but not on the Stroop task. To confirm these results, a second experiment used a different measure of response inhibition, the Flanker task. Again, those in a better mood performed worse on the span task but not the inhibition task.

These findings point to mood affecting storage capacity — something we already had evidence for in the case of negative mood, like anxiety, but a little more surprising to find it also applies to happy moods. Basically, it seems as if any emotion, whether good or bad, is likely to leave you less room in your working memory store for information processing. That shouldn’t be taken as a cue to go all Spock! But it’s something to be aware of.

Reference: 

[2180] Martin, E. A., & Kerns J. G.
(2011).  The influence of positive mood on different aspects of cognitive control.
Cognition & Emotion. 25(2), 265 - 265.

Related News

Cognitive decline is common in those with multiple sclerosis, but not everyone is so afflicted. What governs whether an individual will suffer cognitive impairment?

Evidence is accumulating that age-related cognitive decline is rooted in three related factors: processing speed slows down (because of myelin

Preliminary findings from a small study show that older adults (68-91), after learning to use Facebook, performed about 25% better on tasks designed to measure their ability to continuously monitor and to quickly add or delete the contents of their

Another study looking into the urban-nature effect issue takes a different tack than those I’ve previously reported on, that look at the attention-refreshing benefits of natural environments.

An online study open to anyone, that ended up involving over 100,000 people of all ages from around the world, put participants through 12 cognitive tests, as well as questioning them about their background and lifestyle habits.

In my book on remembering intentions, I spoke of how quickly and easily your thoughts can be derailed, leading to ‘action slips’ and, in the wrong circumstances, catastrophic mistakes.

Being a woman of a certain age, I generally take notice of research into the effects of menopause on cognition.

The issue of ‘chemo-brain’ — cognitive impairment following chemotherapy — has been a controversial one.

Providing some support for the finding I recently reported — that problems with semantic knowledge in those with mild cognitive impairment (

Organophosphate pesticides are the most widely used insecticides in the world; they are also (according to WHO), one of the most hazardous pesticides to vertebrate animals.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news