Older adults can improve their decision making and working memory simply by improving their mood.
Researchers found that easy mood-boosters -- like giving
people a small bag of candy -- helped seniors do significantly better
on tests of decision-making and working memory .
“There has been lots of research showing that younger adults
are more creative and cognitively flexible when they are in a good
mood. But because of the cognitive declines that come with aging, we
weren’t sure that a good mood would be able to help older adults,” said
Ellen Peters , co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Ohio State University . The study was done with Stephanie Carpenter of the University of Michigan ; David Västfjäll of Linköping University in Sweden; and the late Alice Isen, of Cornell University . It appears in the current issue of the journal Cognition and Emotion . The study involved 46 adults aged 63 to 85. Half of them were
put into a good mood by receiving a thank-you card and two small bags
of candy, tied with a red ribbon, when they arrived at the lab for the
experiment. The other “neutral mood” participants did not receive a
card or candy. The participants completed the study on a computer. Those who
were induced into the positive mood had a background screen that was
designed to help keep them feeling positive -- it featured smiling suns
on a sky-blue background. The neutral-mood participants had a similar
background, but with neutral round images with no face. In the decision-making task, the findings were clear: older adults who were put into a good
mood chose significantly better than those who were in the neutral
mood. Later in the experiment, the researchers tested working memory
-- how much information people can hold in their mind at any one time.
Researchers read aloud a group of intermixed letters and numbers and participants were to repeat the group back in numeric and
then alphabetic order. Results showed that the older adults who were induced into a good mood scored better on this test of working memory. I think the operative word here is "induced." We can't always induce people into a good mood. So how do you go about helping people to improve their mood overall? Well maybe you start by showing them studies like this one!