Christmas Cheer and a Positive Outlook are Good For Your Brain

We were called last week about what effects Christmas cheeris likely to have on the brain. This latest research from Northwestern provides additional proof that a positive outlook result fosters creativity and problem solving by insight.

"..positive mood enhances insight, at least in part, by modulating attention and cognitive control mechanisms via the ACC (anterior cingulate cortex), perhaps enhancing sensitivity to detect non-prepotent solution candidates...Analytic processing involves deliberate application of strategies and operations togradually approach solution. Insight, which is considered a type of creative cognition, is the process through which people suddenly and unexpectedly achieve solution through processes that are not consciously reportable. Insight solutions tend to involve conceptual reorganization, often occurring after solvers overcome an impasse in their solving effort, and are suddenly able to recognize distant or atypical relations between problem elements that had previously eluded them."

In the figure above, see how a strong performance on insight-related questions correlated quite closely with positive mood (and negatively with anxious mood). Researchers also found that the brain activations of successful insight-related problems solves closely matched patterns of activation seen with a positive mood.

If your style of problem solving leans more to insight (vs.logical-deductive, for instance), this is important to know. Happiness and optimism are not just optional add-ons or a frill; they may be absolutely essential for any high level insight-related creative work. We mustn't forget to find time for joy.

Eide Neurolearning Blog: Chance favors the prepared mind
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Easy and Hard Problem Solving
Teaching Optimism


  1. Lani Fraizer10:00 AM

    This is great, thanks blogging it! :)

  2. Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.
    Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2010

    I love your work! Great job! I