"If You're Happy and You Know It"...You Will See More

Author:  Minnie Rai
Institution:  University of Western Ontairo

Researchers at the University of Toronto have examined the correlation between people's moods and their scope of visual perception. The results from the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, yield direct evidence that good moods expand the window through which an individual views the world, whereas the opposite holds true for those who experience bad moods.

Adam Anderson, a professor at the University of Toronto said that "when in a positive mood, our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision". The medical explanation of tunnel vision is the when an individual loses the ability to see peripherally but has retained the ability for central vision.

The team of researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand how the visual cortex in the brain processes sensory input when subjects were in good, bad or neutral moods. The brain processes sensory input, as an innate neurological process that involves the interpretation of sensory stimuli in the surrounding environment. The tests involved showed the subjects a series of images to generate any of the three moods. They were then shown a composite image with a face in the centre surrounded by other images of places like houses and were asked to focus on the central image and identify the gender of the person's face and identify the surrounding images.

The results revealed that the subjects failed to process the image of the face when they were in a "bad mood". Conversely, when subjects were in a "good mood", they were capable of processing more images, including the surrounding pictures.

The findings from this study provide interesting insight into how much information individuals perceived based on their mood state. However, Taylor Schmitz, a graduate student of Anderson explains the benefits and drawbacks with the coupling of a good mood and a vast visual perception: "Good moods enhance the literal size of the window through which we see the world. 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."

Author: Minnie Rai

Reviewed by: Yangguang Ou and Falishia Sloan

Published by: Falishia Sloan