Sad kids smarter than happy ones, says UVA study

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A healthcare weekly reports today on research conducted by psychologists at UVA and Britain’s University of Plymouth that seems to show that where attention to detail is required, happy children may be at a disadvantage.

In reaching their findings, the researchers conducted a series of experiments with different age groups of children who had happy or sad moods induced with the aid of music (Mozart and Mahler) and selected video clips (Jungle Book and The Lion King). The groups then were asked to undertake simple tasks that required attention to detail.

Apparently, the kids forced to listen to crusty classical music did better than ones who couldn’t get the catchy Disney tunes out of their heads (personally, Elton John’s cheesy Lion King songs make me kinda sad, I’m not sure about smarter).

"Happiness indicates that things are going well, which leads to a global, top-down style of information processing," said lead researcher Simone Schnall of Plymouth University, of the psychology behind the findings. "Sadness indicates that something is amiss, triggering detail-orientated, analytical processing."

"The good feeling that accompanies happiness comes at a hidden cost," said co-author Vikram Jaswal, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. "It leads to a particular style of thinking that is suited for some types of situations, but not others."

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