If you're preparing for a brain-storming session and you want the creative juices to flow, you might want to put on some uplifting music, a study released on Monday suggested.
But if you need sharp focus, you are better off scared. A group of Canadian researchers looking into how moods affect our mental processes found that a good mood appears to enhance your ability to think laterally, or outside the box.
Conversely, they suspect that the tunnel vision associated with fear and anxiety can be an asset when it comes to tasks requiring close attention to detail.
The underlying mechanisms are still unclear, but in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers suggest the phenomenon may have something to do with the way our mood affects the way we process information.
"We think the underlying mechanism is selection, the way in which we filter information," said Adam Anderson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada and author of the study. "If attention is like a spotlight, then a good mood will widen that spotlight, while a negative mood will focus it very tightly."
To test his theory, Anderson studied how a group of 24 university students fared on two tasks — one a creative problem requiring unusual word associations and the other a visual task that required the volunteers to ignore distracting information.