When we are in a positive mood, our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision, according to a recent University of Toronto study.
In my previous post on "Positivity," I wrote about Barbara Fredrickson's research indicating that positive emotions tend to broaden our focus, enabling us to discover more tools and solutions to life's challenges and ultimately making us more resourceful.
Now, the University of Toronto study shows that good moods also create such broad focus for our perceptual experience. In the article "People Who Wear Rose-colored Glasses See More, Study Shows," ScienceDaily reports:
However, when viewing the same images in a good mood, they actually took in more information — they saw the central image of the face as well as the surrounding pictures of houses. The discovery came from looking at specific parts of the brain — the parahippocampal "place area" — that are known to process places and how this area relates to primary visual cortical responses, the first part of the cortex related to vision.
The researchers suggest that good moods help us see more in our environment, but the downside is that the broad focus can distract us from critical tasks that require narrow focus, such as operating dangerous machinery. In contrast, bad moods limit our ability to integrate information that is outside our immediate attention.