According to a new study, conducted by Malia F. Mason of Columbia University and Moshe Bar of Harvard Medical School, the progression of thoughts directly affects mood. The researchers enlisted 77 individuals for a study to determine how thought progression, or lack thereof, affects mood. They said, “Mood affects the way people think. But can the way people think affect their mood?” The participants were presented with two sets of words. One set was comprised of eight progressive word lists and the other set was comprised of eight stagnant word lists. The participants were instructed to read each word to themselves and then to record their mood electronically on a keypad.
“Participants reported feeling significantly greater positive affect following progressive relative to stagnant blocks,” said the researchers. “Results revealed a general trend whereby positive affect declined between the first and the second mood sampling, but only among participants who performed the stagnant block between these two assessment periods.” They added, “No such decline in positive affect was observed among participants who performed the progressive block between these two periods.” They also noted that negative mood was decreased only in the test subjects who viewed the progressive word lists and negative mood remained stable in those who viewed the stagnant lists.
“In summary, these analyses reveal that participants’ moods were relatively better subsequent to information-processing periods that were characterized by mental progression than periods that were characterized by mental constraint,” said the researchers. “Thinking that is broad and that advances in a conceptually coherent manner is likely to be more enjoyable than thinking that is conceptually restricted.” They believe these findings could have positive implications for people with negative moods. They added, “It is theoretically possible that populations with mood disorders and excessive rumination, such as individuals with major depression, can benefit from a processing experience that is associative, broad, and coherent.”
Mason, M. F., & Bar, M. (2011, August 8). The Effect of Mental Progression on Mood. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025035
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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