December 15, 2010
Happy Videos Improve Learning

Psychology researchers at the University of Western Ontario find that students learn better if their mood is manipulated with videos or music to make them happier.

Students who took part in the study were put into different moods and then given a category learning task to do (they learned to classify sets of pictures with visually complex patterns). The researchers manipulated mood with help from music clips and video clips; first, they tried several out to find out what made people happiest and saddest. The happiest music was a peppy Mozart piece, and the happiest video was of a laughing baby. The researchers then used these in the experiment, along with sad music and video (a piece of music from Schindler’s List and a news report about an earthquake) and a piece of music and a video that didn’t affect mood. After listening to the music and watching the video, people had to try to learn to recognize a pattern.

Happy volunteers were better at learning a rule to classify the patterns than sad or neutral volunteers. “If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you to do that,” Nadler says. And music is an easy way to get into a good mood. Everyone has a different type of music that works for them—don’t feel like you have to switch to Mozart, she says.

Mood music. Comedy. How about mood music with comedy? Say, an old Steve Martin skit involving banjo playing and balloon head gear?

Watching funny videos at work is a form of self-medication to make one's brain function better.

Nadler also thinks this may be a reason why people like to watch funny videos at work. “I think people are unconsciously trying to put themselves in a positive mood”—so that apparent time-wasting may actually be good news for employers.

Okay dear readers, got any links to some videos that you think will help our brains function at higher levels? Know of some videos that'll make us learn faster and solve more problems more creatively?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 15 11:36 PM  Brain Performance

adam said at December 16, 2010 8:50 AM:

I'm currently learning Haskell from Learn You A Haskell For Great Good. The child-like drawings and flippant prose (eg, "If you say that a is 5, you can't say it's something else later because you just said it was 5. What are you, some kind of liar?") put me in a good mood.

I recommend it to anyone learning Haskell, and I recommend learning Haskell to any programmer who hasn't learned a functional language and wants to expand the way they think about computation.

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