Moving objects upwards helps people remember happier memories, psychologists have found.
People who moved marbles to a higher box were more likely to remember positive memories than those who moved them down, an unusual experiment revealed.
Anything else that activates the idea of ‘up’ would probably work:
- Raising one’s arms up,
- walking up,
- or even just looking up.
The reason is that we use spatial concepts to think about emotions.
For example, a happy person says they are ‘on top of the world’ or ‘on cloud nine’.
However, a sad person says they are ‘down in the dumps’ or at ‘rock bottom’.
These metaphors are built in to how our minds process emotions.
Up is happy and down is sad.
Getting people to think upwards, then, helps them remember positive memories.
Dr Daniel Casasanto, the study’s first author, said:
“These data suggest that spatial metaphors for emotion aren’t just in language, linguistic metaphors correspond to mental metaphors, and activating the mental metaphor ‘good is up’ can cause us to think happier thoughts.”
For the study, people moved marbles either upwards or downwards while they were asked to recall various memories.
The results showed they were more likely to recall happy memories while moving the marbles upwards.
Dr Casasanto said:
“Who knows, it would be great if this basic research can help people think more positively in the world beyond the laboratory — marble therapy?”
The study was published in the journal Cognition (Casasanto & Dijkstra, 2010).