Negative Mood = Tunnel Vision

One reason why depression can be such a vicious circle:

“A University of Toronto study provides the first direct evidence that our mood literally changes the way our visual system filters our perceptual experience suggesting that seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses is more biological reality than metaphor.

“‘Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates and how we see,’ says Adam Anderson, a U of T professor of psychology.  ‘Specifically our study shows that when in a positive mood, our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision.‘”

Subjects were shown images “designed to generate a good, bad or neutral mood. ” Then they were asked to focus on one piece of a composite image. Those in a good mood saw more than those in a bad mood; they didn’t see just what they were expecting to see but images peripheral to their focus as well: 

“Bad moods … may keep us more narrowly focused, preventing us from integrating information outside of our direct attentional focus.”

This is in interesting and somewhat counter-intuitive in light of the many creative people throughout history who have suffered from moodiness, melancholy and depression, if one thinks of artists as integrators who choose their area of focus from a wide palette of magic. But perhaps for some artists it’s not so much a choice as a necessity, this narrow yet intense focus that a bad mood brings them.

For those of us caught in the trap of our mind’s expectations and habitual disappointments, however, a positive mood might be beneficial, allowing us access to other possibilities.  And yet, how to find that positive mood when our vision is so narrow, when we see only what we expect to see?


One thought on “Negative Mood = Tunnel Vision

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like an interesting study. I have spent the greater part of my life thinking that I just WAS depressed. It never felt like anything ever “triggered” it. I am beginning to see now that there are in fact many subtle, unknown (or unknowable) triggers. The more we are aware of those things that subconsciously influence us, the more we may be able to resist or counter them.
    Be well, Marco

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