It takes us an average of 25 minutes to get to work every morning. We bump bumpers on the freeway, shoulder shoulders on the subway. By the time you get to your desk, you’ll feel fried–and unable to think creatively. Which is precisely why you need to watch this baby laugh.
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, a team led by researcher Ruby Nadler found the hilarious trumps the tragic in cases of creativity.
Her team gave subjects audio and video inputs, each on a range of negative, neutral, or positive emotional impact. Negative videos included a news report on a Chinese earthquake, the neutral had a clip from Antiques Roadshow, and the positive that giggling boy from above. After being primed with that content, the subjects played a game where they had to learn to recognize a pattern.
Who did best? The folks that got giggled by the boy above.
“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem solving and flexible yet careful thinking,” Nadler said in a statement. “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.”
This is due to what psychologists call cognitive flexibility: the ability to take old information and adapt it to a new context. In the case of chess, a cognitively flexible player will revise her strategy by responding to her opponent’s moves throughout the game, rather than hold to the same linear plan. Since ultra-quick startups like Yammer, Square, and GitHub all organize around customer-satiating responsiveness, we clearly needed cognitive flexibility in our working lives, too. Which brings us back to the baby.
While the research isn’t yet conclusive, there’s an increasing body of work surrounding how positive feelings open up the aperture of our creativity. At a physiological level, laughing at yourself as you laugh with the baby releases dopamine, one of the brain’s feel-good reward hormones. That means you grow less critical of your ideas, which allows for more of them to come out. It’s that same reason that creative people are often so weird. And giggly.
Hat tip: the Brilliant Report