Happiness and a bad memory

I just googled  “cognition” and lo and behold, what did I find, but this article:

Good Moods May Affect Memory

According to a recent study that was published in the journal Cognition and Emotion,

…individuals who have trouble recalling facts that they had just studied or dialogue from a recent conversation may have experienced this type of memory loss because they were in a good mood at the time that they were learning or speaking, according

The investigators said they believe that good mood may reduce a person’s capacity for working memory.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers divided participants into two groups. Members from one viewed a short comedic film, while those belonging to the other subset watched a how-to video that was based on floor construction.

A subsequent memorization test evaluated all of the participants’ ability to repeat back number sequences that were played through headphones.

The results showed that the better moods among subjects in the comedy film group resulted in poorer test scores.

Despite the apparent negative affect of good mood on an individual’s working memory, the researchers said that happiness has also been found to improve some forms of cognition.

“Being in a good mood has been shown to increase creative problem-solving skills and other aspects of thinking,” said lead study author Elizabeth Martin.

I’ve said before that happiness is made up of “good health and a bad memory” and here seems to be some corroboration. At first blush, it seems a little depressing — are they saying that if I’m happy, my memory is going to be crappy? It’s not like I need any more odds stacked against me.

On the other hand, the fact that good mood apparently increases creative approaches to problem solving and other thinking tells me that perhaps our memory can sometimes get in the way.

I’ve noticed in my own life that some of the most unhappy people are the ones who are convinced they know what will happen, based on their past experiences. If something happened a certain way, once upon a time, it’s doomed to happen for all eternity. They seem to have pretty clear recollections of how things “really” were, and they apply that point of view to their assessment of the future.

Which may seem comforting in its own way, but it doesn’t leave much room for innovation. They seemed destined to repeat patterns over and over, because they’ve “figured out” how things are going to turn out.

That’s not to say they’re wrong. I’m just saying it doesn’t seem to make them very happy. Convinced they’re right, yes. Happy? Not so much.

Anyway, after I read this short article, I felt a little better about my conversation with my friend the other day, when they were telling me I was talking about exactly the same things I’ve talked to them about before. Maybe I didn’t remember, because I was happy when I was talking to them. It’s a theory. (As are most pronouncements of “how things are”.) The I was happy explanation is a lot easier to take than the I’m losing my mind and I don’t even realize it explanation.

I’ll take it.


Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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