Positive mood, negative memory

The virtues of positive thinking and positive mood have been in the popular domain for a while now. Being in a positive frame of mind promotes creativity and problem solving skills. However, now a new study has found a down side to that positive mental state as well.

For the new study researchers measured their subjects’ mood before and after showing them a video clip. Some of the subjects were shown a segment of a stand-up comedy routine while others watched an instructional video on how to install flooring. Can you guess which video was intended to promote positive mood?

Questionnaires revealed that those who had watched the comedy act were in a much more positive mood than the floor-installers. Both groups then completed a memory test. The test involved subjects hearing several numbers through headphones at the rate of four numbers per second. After the numbers stopped the subjects were asked to recall the last six numbers in order.

The results showed that people who had watched a comedy routine and who were in a better mood did significantly worse on the task.

So while a positive mood makes you creative and able to think laterally, this comes at the cost of short-term working memory.

Research to test this in real life situations such as the classroom will be useful. In the meantime, just to be safe, if you are at a party and feeling wonderful and some gorgeous person tells you their phone number, it might be an idea to bring yourself down by thinking for a moment of the death of your favourite pet guinea pig “Twinkles”: the drop in mood might just help that phone number to stick.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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