The first real-world tests have found people who are feeling down were less likely to remember everyday tasks.
14 February 2022
If you are in the doghouse for forgetting to buy that special someone something this Valentine’s Day, it’s not your fault, psychologists have discovered – it might be because you are still feeling those pandemic blues.
Feeling low or sad can make people less likely to remember everyday tasks like posting a letter or returning a call, academics from the University of Aberdeen found.
Francesco Pupillo, who worked on the study, said: “We have known for some time that negative mood can impact our thinking and memory, but this is another piece of the puzzle that shows the potential of positive mood for helping us remember and complete our tasks.
“And, yes, perhaps if you have forgotten a special day, or Valentine’s Day, you can maybe get away with it by blaming the pandemic blues.”
In the study, published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal, university researchers asked volunteers to report their mood, from positive to negative, at different times of the day while simultaneously having to remember to send messages.
As participants’ mood changed from more negative to more positive, the more likely they were to remember the task.
Katharina Schnitzspahn, who co-led the study at the university’s School of Psychology, said the results “suggest a clear relationship between our emotional states and our cognitive performance and highlight the need to reduce stress and negative feelings in order to help us remember and perform our planned intentions”.
Dr Schnitzspahn said the findings mean people leaving work in a happy mood on Valentine’s Day “should make it easier for us to remember buying those flowers on the way home”.
“Remembering intentions such as reserving a table in our partner’s favourite restaurant for Valentine’s Day or which flowers they might like can be valuable to maintain compassionate relationships,” she said.
“However, although useful for anniversaries and Valentine’s gifts, this type of intentional memory can also play a crucial role in our daily lives such as in remembering to take medication or book a doctor’s appointment.
“It is therefore important to understand how changes in mood can impact this function.”
The university said while there has been evidence to suggest mood can affect how well people remember to carry out tasks, this was the first study to look at this in the real world.