Mood Influences Memory in a Surprising Way A researcher has uncovered a good news, bad news finding: Although someone may be in a good mood, they may not remember what they have just heard.

A good mood, in fact, appears to decrease a person’s working memory capacity. Working memory is what we use to immediately recall information we may need while in a conversation.

“This explains why you might not be able to remember a phone number you get at a party when you are having a good time,” noted Elizabeth Martin, a doctoral student of psychology at the University of Missouri and lead author of the study.

Researchers gauged study participants’ mood before and after showing them a video clip. Some participants were shown a segment of a stand-up comedy routine, while others watched an instructional video on how to install flooring.

Following the videos, those that viewed the comedy routine were in significantly better moods after viewing the video, while the mood of those that viewed the flooring video had not changed.

After watching the videos, both groups completed a memory test. This test provides several numbers to a participant through headphones at a rate of four numbers per second. After the recording stopped, participants were asked to recall the last six numbers in order.

Those that watched the comedy routine and were in a better mood performed significantly worse on the task.

“While working memory storage is decreased, being in a good mood is not all bad,” Martin said. “Being in a good mood has been shown to increase creative problem-solving skills and other aspects of thinking.”

Martin said future research should analyze the impact of mood on working memory storage capacity in real life situations, such as a classroom setting.

“This research is the first to show that positive mood can negatively impact working memory storage capacity.”

The study was published earlier this year in the journal Cognition and Emotion.

Source: University of Missouri