Happy People See More

Vision is vision, right? Maybe not. New research at the University of Toronto shows that what we see is actually affected by our mood:

Participants were shown images designed to affect their mood in a good, neutral, or bad way. Then they were shown images, each with a face in the middle and surrounded by a place, such as a house. Participants were asked to identify the gender of the face. When in a bad mood, participants only took in information about the face. When in a good mood, participants also took in information about the surroundings. [From WebMD - Mood Literally Affects How We See World by Caroline Wilbert.]

The neuromarketing implications of these quirky findings aren’t clear, but I do find it interesting that the researchers were able to create the differences in perception by showing the subject images. That is, they didn’t take a group of subjects and evaluate their mood prior to the experiment. Rather, they created the mood for each subject artificially.

It seems likely to me that mood plays a big part in many things other than vision, and it’s interesting to know that, for example, you could put potential customers in a better mood even if they didn’t start that way.

Exactly what mood is best for marketers or any other activity isn’t clear. The researchers note that reduced focus (as generated by a bad mood) might be an advantage for tasks that require sharp concentration, like operating machinery or screening airline passengers. So, when they guy inspecting your carryon seems a bit grumpy, cut him some slack – he’s probably operating in a peak performance zone!


This post was written by:

— who has written 986 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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4 responses to "Happy People See More" — Your Turn


Fred H Schlegel 9. June 2009 at 8:59 am

I’m curious from what I see here and in the article why they feel the image altered the subjects mood. It seems that this experiment structure might also be stating something like – a happy face is a non-threatening face. If the face shows another emotion we need to study it more carefully to determine threat response. i guess that is some sort of mood shift by the participant, but I’m not sure it’s a good to poor type response.


Alex 9. June 2009 at 9:57 am

Hi Roger, correct ..! I believe mood plays a big part in many things other than vision.


Christine 10. June 2009 at 8:15 pm

I have a hard time believing this because I am perpetually happy and yet I’m one of the least observant people I know!

“Ignorance is bliss”, right?


Olga 17. June 2009 at 6:40 am

Interesting research, thanks for posting. I wonder if, according to this research, commercial images, such as ads, which put us into a bad mood, have any chance of triggering any purchases of products they advertise. Because we simply won’t see all that’s there! I wrote a more detailed post about this subject on http://www.schmoozyfox.com/?p=596


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