Something as simple as getting a bag of candy is enough to boost memory, research finds.
In fact, anything that quickly puts you in a good mood can boost memory and decision-making.
A recent study is the first to test this out in older adults.
Professor Ellen Peters, who co-authored the study, said:
“There has been lots of research showing that younger adults are more creative and cognitively flexible when they are in a good mood.
But because of the cognitive declines that come with aging, we weren’t sure that a good mood would be able to help older adults.
So these results are good news.
There are ways for older adults to overcome some of the cognitive declines that come with aging.”
For the experiment, one group of people were given two bags of candy and a thank you for taking part…
…the other group were given nothing.
They then carried out tests of memory and decision-making.
Professor Peters explained that the test of decision-making involved looking at virtual decks of cards with people’s faces on:
“We used an experiential task because real life is experiential.
For example, you meet a new person and she is like one of these decks of cards.
You don’t know anything about her and you have to learn if she is someone you can trust.
What this study suggests is that people who are in a good mood are going to learn faster and make better decisions.”
People’s working memory was tested by having them memorise strings of numbers and letters.
Professor Peters said:
“Working memory is important in decision making.
If you’re working your way through different options, how much you can remember of each option — and can therefore compare and contrast in your head — has a big impact on how well you can make a decision.
The results are good news for an ageing population:
“Given the current concern about cognitive declines in the aged, our findings are important for showing how simple methods to improve mood can help improve cognitive functioning and decision performance in older adults, just like they do in younger people.”
The study was published in the journal Cognition and Emotion (Carpenter et al., 2013).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Thinking image from Shutterstock