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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Mood Literally Affects How We See World

Research Suggests That People in a Good Mood Take in More Information When They Look at Something
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 5, 2009 -- We’ve all heard of rose-colored glasses. New research suggests that mood really may affect our vision.

Although people in a good mood may not see things tinted with pink, they do take in more information when they look at something. Meanwhile, people in a bad mood are more likely to see with tunnel vision. The research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers at the University of Toronto conducted the study, which included 16 participants with a mean age of 22. All participants had normal vision.

Participants were shown images designed to affect their mood in a good, neutral, or bad way. Then they were shown images, each with a face in the middle and surrounded by a place, such as a house. Participants were asked to identify the gender of the face. When in a bad mood, participants only took in information about the face. When in a good mood, participants also took in information about the surroundings.

Researchers were able to track this through functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, technology of the brain.

Being in a good mood -- and taking in more information -- can be a positive or negative thing, depending on the circumstances, researchers said.

“Good moods enhance the literal size of the window through which we see the world,” Taylor Schmitz, a graduate student in psychology at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, says in a written statement. “The upside of this is that we can see things from a more global, or integrative perspective. The downside is that this can lead to distraction on critical tasks that require narrow focus, such as operating dangerous machinery or airport screening of passenger baggage.”

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