Did you know that your problem solving abilities could be affected by something as simple as watching graphically violent or emotional scenes in a movie? True say Ohio State University Medical Center researchers, who claim that it can induce sufficient stress problem-solving abilities. The study is the first of its kind to deal with movie watching and problem solving abilities.
Two very different movies - "Saving Private Ryan" and "Shrek" were used to induce stress or set up a control condition before testing participants for verbal mental flexibility. A significant difference was noted amongst the performance of those who watched the two different movies. If a movie could impair the performance, then it sounds horrifying indeed to think about a similar real life situation.
The first study involved 12 participants, six men and six women. Those who watched the first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan," struggled with cognitive flexibility when compared to those who spent the previous 20 minutes watching the beginning of the animated comedy "Shrek.". The participants were also tested for word association, which revealed that stress was again associated with a poor performance.
It has been proposed that a state of arousal, due to the stress hormone norepinephrine, inhibits an individual's ability to effectively exploit the human mind for problem solving.
There is also a brighter side of the coin, with another aspect of the study suggesting that a beta-blocker medication could promote the ability to think flexibly under stressful conditions.
The study imposed stressful circumstances on the participants and measured whether impaired thinking could be administration of a beta-blocker, propranolol. In the group of patients who were in good mental health, a reversal of the above mentioned effect was found. Measures of blood pressure, heart rate and performance on cognitive flexibility tests all indicated the propranolol reduced the effects of the stress.