Is it possible there are drawbacks to happiness?

Is it possible there are drawbacks to happiness?

By Bruce Bower

July 18th, 2008

A burst of happiness may impair children’s attention to detailA new study of how mood affects thinking styles presented children with problems such as the one shown above. Participants searched for a houselike shape, left, in the larger drawing of a vehicle, right.Schnall

Happy children learn especially well, unless they have to focus on details rather than the big picture. That’s the implication of a new study in which school-age youngsters induced to feel happy lagged behind their sad- or neutral-feeling peers in finding shapes embedded within larger images.

This two-part investigation shows for the first time that an experimentally induced good mood undermines children’s ability to perform detail-oriented tasks, report psychologist Simone Schnall of the University of Plymouth in England and her colleagues online and in an upcoming Developmental Science.

Earlier studies had indicated that a surge of happiness draws adults” attention away from the details of a problem but increases both adults” and children’s creativity and mental flexibility.

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