Does being in a good mood make your memory worse?

Some evidence suggests that positive mood influences cognitive control. The current research investigated whether positive mood has differential effects on two aspects of cognitive control, working memory and prepotent response inhibition. In Study 1, following either a positive or neutral mood induction, participants completed the Running Memory Span (RMS), a measure primarily of working memory storage capacity, and the Stroop task, a measure of prepotent response inhibition. Results were that the positive mood group performed worse on the RMS task but not on the Stroop task. In Study 2, participants completed the RMS and another measure of prepotent response inhibition, the Flanker task. Results were that when in a positive mood state participants performed worse on the RMS but not on the Flanker task. Overall, this research suggests that positive mood has differential effects on cognitive control, impairing working memory but having no effect on prepotent response inhibition.

Source: “The influence of positive mood on different aspects of cognitive control.” from Cogn Emot. 2011 Feb;25(2):265-79.

Eurekalert breaks it down:

Working memory, for example, is the ability to recall items in a conversation as you are having it,” Martin said. “This explains why you might not be able to remember a phone number you get at a party when you are having a good time. This research is the first to show that positive mood can negatively impact working memory storage capacity. This shows that although systems in the brain are connected, it is possible to affect one process but not others.”


“While working memory storage is decreased, being in a good mood is not all bad,” Martin said. “Being in a good mood has been shown to increase creative problem-solving skills and other aspects of thinking.

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