Monday, 26 May 2014
Work can be funny
We have often been told that laughter is good for us. There are several studies backing up the positive effects of laughter on our mental health and general well-being. I've previously blogged on how laughter and humour can replenish willpower.
I recently came across a 2010 study in the Journal Psychological Science which looked at how positive mood affects our performance. A team led by University of Western Ontario psychologist Ruby Nadler showed participants three types of videos.
The first group got to watch a ‘negative’ video featuring coverage of a Chinese earthquake. The next group got to watch a ‘neutral’ video featuring the ‘Antiques Road Show’. The third group got to watch a ‘positive’ video of a laughing baby.
Each group were then given a test where they had to classify novel stimuli. This was to gauge their creative thinking and problem solving. The third group came out on top with the researchers suggesting that positive mood enhances creative problem solving and promotes flexible thinking
The theory is that cognitive flexibility is enhanced by positive mood. It improves our ability to take new information and apply it to things you already know about. Watching funny things draws us into humour where we use abstract thinking, entertain comparisons and develop perspectives we might not get from regular behaviour. Humour gets our brain moving and that improves our cognitive function.
The next time you have a few minutes to spare before a meeting, maybe go on YouTube for a giggle rather than take a last look over your less than hilarious PowerPoint presentation. Your cognitive flexibility and problem solving skills might get a boost. Now that's no joke.