EMOTIONS CAN MAKE US SMARTER. We sometimes give short shrift to emotions when we’re talking about academic success, but the science of learning is demonstrating that our emotional state represents a crucial internal situation that influences how intelligently we think and act.
When we’re in a positive mood, for example, we tend to think more expansively and creatively. When we feel anxious—for instance, when we’re about to take a dreaded math test—that anxiety uses up some of the working memory capacity we need to solve problems, leaving us, literally, with less intelligence to apply to the exam.
One line of investigation within the science of learning has to do with the feeling of hope. Research in this area has found that a feeling of hopefulness actually leads us to try harder and persist longer—but only if it is paired with practical plans for achieving our goals, and—this is the interesting part—specific, concrete actions we’ll take when and if (usually when) our original plans don’t work out as expected.