Advertising
Advertising

Science Says Bad Mood Improves Memory And Betters Your Judgment

Science Says Bad Mood Improves Memory And Betters Your Judgment

Your car breaks down right before a rainstorm hits. You tell yourself to stay positive, but that sour mood starts creeping in. The worst part is, you find yourself feeling badly about your bad mood! Yet, the latest science reveals bad moods might actually be good for you, at least in the short term. Scientists have studied the effects of different moods on our ability to detect lies, remember information, and persevere in difficult tasks. Surprisingly, participants in bad moods, either from rainy weather conditions or emotional priming in the lab, performed better in all three categories.

Our brains are wired to painful memories

When you think about it, bad moods leading to more detailed memories and better judgment makes sense. Our brains are wired to recognize what causes us pain so we can avoid it in the future. During negative moods, your senses are heightened to scan for anything in your environment that may contribute to your discomfort. With your senses taking in more information, your memory is sharpened and your judgment becomes clearer.

Advertising

It’s important to remember, however, that these studies only focus on the benefits of temporary bad moods. Chronic stress or depression wreak havoc on our health and our ability to enjoy life. If you suffer from chronic low moods, this could be signaling a health condition like depression, or the need to make a change in your life circumstances.

Advertising

Details in your bad memories help you make judgments

As long as bad moods are fleeting, they do enhance our cognitive abilities in some pretty compelling ways. A 2009 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology[1], found that shoppers who were in a bad mood from poor weather conditions had an easier time recalling details about the stores they visited.

Advertising

Bad moods do more than just enhance your ability to remember details. They also help you make accurate social judgments, such as correctly guessing if someone is lying to you. In another social psychology study, participants were primed into a negative, positive, or neutral mood by watching various video clips. Afterward, they watched a set of interviews with people who either did or did not steal something. Participants that were primed with a negative mood identified the thief accurately more often than participants primed with positive moods.[2]

Finally, bad moods may increase your willingness to persevere with difficult tasks, and decrease self-sabotage. Scientists studied the frequency of “self-handicapping” – intentionally creating barriers to your own success due to fear of failure – in participants experiencing negative or positive moods.[3] For this study, the scientists offered participants a choice between drinking a tea that would enhance their performance, or a tea that would interfere with their performance. Choosing the tea that interfered with their performance meant they were “self-handicapping.” Scientists also looked at how long participants stuck with a difficult task. Participants in negative moods were less likely to choose the tea that would interfere with their performance, and more likely to persevere longer in the tasks they were given.

Next time you find yourself in a bad mood, take a moment to appreciate the mood for the benefits it provides. Notice if your memory seems sharper, your judgment more accurate, or your determination stronger. You may not enjoy every bad mood, but acknowledging that bad moods serve a positive purpose can help make them less painful. You may just find that the occasional bad mood isn’t so bad after all.

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Lindsay Shaffer

Freelance Writer, Artist, Photographer

Psychology Explains Why Busy People Should Always Make Fun A Priority In Life Having a Mentor Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Smart Enough, It Actually Means the Opposite 10 Best Sites That Offer Gorgeous Free Images for Blogs How You Can Generate The Next Million Dollar Idea By Doodling On A Napkin Do What You Love And Love What You Do; That’s The Only Way To Succeed

Trending in Brain

1 Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think 2 How to Improve Your Memory: 7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways 3 What Causes Brain Fog? (7 Things You Can Do to Prevent and Stop It) 4 How to Improve Your Brain Memory Naturally: Foods to Eat And Skip 5 15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

c021f7eaf726bd5dbe1d0771e21e9a8e

     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

    Advertising

    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

    066f12d4b43c32a9a66c692b52826153

      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

      Advertising

      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

      Advertising

      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

      da47b0582836795829a5b6b716a314f1

        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

        049da49ea55fb677185adba10795f01f

          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

          Advertising

          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next