Why are workers prone to sending each other pictures of cuddly animals or viral videos that elicit stifled giggles in cubicles around the world? New research suggests that people use these types of so-called distractions to subconsciously boost their moods, which can lead to increased creativity and better problem solving in the workplace.
Researchers from the University of Western Ontario divided study participants into three groups and put them into specific moods using music and video. The first group listened to an upbeat Mozart piece and watched a video of a laughing baby; the second listened to a musical score from the movie Schindler’s List and watched a news report about an earthquake; and the third listened to music and watched a video that were shown not to affect mood. Volunteers were then asked to learn to recognize a pattern that existed in a problem. (More on Time.com: How Feelings of Gratitude Breed Happiness and Well-Being)
The results of the study, which were published in Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, showed that the participants in the happy group were vastly better at discerning the pattern than those who were put into negative or neutral moods.
Ruby Nadler, one of the study researchers and a graduate student at the University of Ontario, said the takeaway from this study was that positive moods are helpful in enhancing creative problem solving, while also promoting flexible and careful thinking. “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 said in a news release for the Association for Psychological Science. (More on Time.com: Why a Good Mood May Make You More Adventurous)
So next time your coworker sends you a link to the latest laugh-inducing viral video, take a moment to check it out before tackling the most complicated item on your to-do list. Your boss will thank you.