Researchers are increasingly discovering that our mental resources are limited — the more energy and attention you devote to one task, the less you have for the next one.
So if you’re finding yourself unable to focus on your work, there’s a good chance you need to recharge your mental batteries.
One way to do that? Watch a funny video.
That’s according to a new study, led by researchers at the University of New South Wales and cited by the Association for Psychological Science, which found that humour can be a great way to boost your productivity when your mental energy is flagging.
In one experiment, the researchers recruited about 70 undergrads to review two pages of writing and cross out every instance of the letter “e.” Then everyone watched a short video clip, from either the comedy “Mr. Bean,” an educational film about the management profession, or a beach scene with dolphins swimming.
The students’ final task was to make performance predictions of potential employees in a fake company based on their personality profiles. The students were told that the only way to complete the task was to make 10 correct predictions in a row. Little did they know, the computer software they used for the task was programmed to make that impossible.
Sure enough, students who’d watched the clip of “Mr. Bean” persisted twice as long on the performance-prediction task before quitting as students in the other two groups.
When they analysed the results, the researchers found it was the specific emotion of amusement that helped the students persist on the task, and not simply positive feelings in general.
Bottom line: Consider this research a free pass to watch that funny Youtube video that popped up in your Facebook newsfeed — and to tell your boss it’s helping your productivity.
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