Previous research suggests that our problem-solving abilities change depending on our states of mind and that love—a broad, long-term emotion—triggers global brain processing, a state in which we see the big picture, make broad associations and connect disparate ideas. Sex, on the other hand—more specific and here and now—initiates more local processing, in which the brain zooms in and focuses on details. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen and Jacobs University Bremen wondered whether thinking about love might actually help people perform better on creative tasks, whereas imagining sex might prime people to do better on tasks requiring analytical thinking.
The researchers asked 30 subjects to imagine a long, loving walk with their partners and asked 30 others to think of casual sex with someone they did not love. Then they gave the subjects cognitive tests. As predicted, the love-primed ones performed much better on creative tasks and scored worse on analytical questions, whereas the reverse was true of those who thought about sex. The researchers also subliminally primed a separate group of subjects to think about love or sex and got similar results.
Okay, sixty people isn’t all that many. The results are certainly interesting enough that I’d like to see a much larger version of this study. But the moment, this isn’t really that impressive in my opinion. But I guess it’s one of those studies that give journalists a great headline so they run with it anyway. I can hardly blame them as here I am blogging about it too.