By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

A new study suggests that our mood literally changes the way our visual system filters our perceptual experience.  In other words, seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is not just a metaphor.  It also reiterates that people in bad moods will have tunnel vision.

The researchers used MRI’s to investigate the internal working process of the brain.  According to the researcher Adam Anderson, a U of Toronto professor of psychology “Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates and how we see,” In other words, when we are in a good mood we take in more visual images.

Subjects were first placed in a good or bad mood. Then the subjects were then shown an image, featuring a face surrounded by other images, such as a house. Subjects were asked to identify the gender of the person’s face.  When in a bad mood, the subjects did not process the images of places in the surrounding background.

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.

Applying the Research

If possible, I will always try to keep the mood light in a mediation.  Although I didn’t have the scientific basis to do so, I now know that the good mood can help the person to visualize more information.  This research also leads me to believe that if a good mood can help visual recognition, it can also help to recognize and accept other information that is not just visual – suggestions from the mediator.

Moreover, other research has found that people in good moods are more receptive to suggestions of change than when in bad moods.  As such, keeping the participants in good moods can only help with the negotiation and mediation process.

Further, as a negotiator, if you sense that the mood is going darker, perhaps it is not the best time to announce a new concept or term.  The mood will likely prevent the person from properly evaluating your new proposal.   The bad mood may may keep others too  narrowly focused; preventing them from integrating information outside of their direct focus.

Reference Source:

Taylor W. Schmitz, Eve De Rosa, and Adam K. Anderson. Opposing Influences of Affective State Valence on Visual Cortical EncodingJournal of Neuroscience, 2009; 29 (22): 7199 DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5387-08.2009

University of Toronto (2009, June 6). People Who Wear Rose-colored Glasses See More, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 5, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090603103807.htm

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