A positive mood allows your brain to think more creatively

February, 2011

Students who watched a video of a laughing baby or listened to a peppy Mozart piece performed better on a classification task.

A link between positive mood and creativity is supported by a study in which 87 students were put into different moods (using music and video clips) and then given a category learning task to do (classifying sets of pictures with visually complex patterns). There were two category tasks: one involved classification on the basis of a rule that could be verbalized; the other was based on a multi-dimensional pattern that could not easily be verbalized.

Happy volunteers were significantly better at learning the rule to classify the patterns than sad or neutral volunteers. There was no difference between those in a neutral mood and those in a negative mood.

It had been theorized that positive mood might only affect processes that require hypothesis testing and rule selection. The mechanism by which this might occur is through increased dopamine levels in the frontal cortex. Interestingly, however, although there was no difference in performance as a function of mood, analysis based on how closely the subjects’ responses matched an optimal strategy for the task found that, again, positive mood was of significant benefit.

The researchers suggest that this effect of positive mood may be the reason behind people liking to watch funny videos at work — they’re trying to enhance their performance by putting themselves in a good mood.

The music and video clips were rated for their mood-inducing effects. Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik—Allegro” was the highest rated music clip (at an average rating of 6.57 on a 7-point scale), Vivaldi’s Spring was next at 6.14. The most positive video was that of a laughing baby (6.57 again), with Whose Line is it Anyway sound effects scoring close behind (6.43).

Reference: 

[2054] Nadler, R. T., Rabi R., & Minda J P.
(2010).  Better Mood and Better Performance.
Psychological Science. 21(12), 1770 - 1776.

Related News

A new study explains why variable practice improves your memory of most skills better than practice focused on a single task.

A study involving 117 six year old children and 104 eight year old children has found that the ability to preserve information in

While brain training programs can certainly improve your ability to do the task you’re practicing, there has been little evidence that this transfers to other tasks.

A number of studies have demonstrated that negative stereotypes (such as “women are bad at math”) can impair performance in tests. Now a new study shows that this effect extends to learning. The study involved learning to recognize target Chinese characters among sets of two or four.

While studies have demonstrated that listening to music before doing a task can improve performance on that task, chiefly through its effect on mood, there has been little research into the effects of background music while doing the task.

Another study has come out showing that older adults with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have cognitive problems. The six-year study followed 858 adults who were age 65 or older at the beginning of the study.

‘Working memory’ is thought to consist of three components: one concerned with auditory-verbal processing, one with visual-spatial processing, and a central executive that controls both. It has been hypothesized that the relationships between the components changes as children develop.

Consistent with studies showing that gender stereotypes can worsen math performance in females, a year-long study involving 17 first- and second-grade teachers and their 52 boy and 65 girl students has found that boys' math performance was not related to their (female) teacher's math anxiety whi

Previous research has shown that older adults are more likely to incorrectly repeat an action in situations where a

It’s now well established that older brains tend to find it harder to filter out irrelevant information. But now a new study suggests that that isn’t all bad.

Pages

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