Colleague not focusing? Blame their lover

by HCA15 Nov 2013

We’ve all experienced the frustration of an unfocused colleague, but next time you’re at the end of your tether with your distracted co-worker check to see if they are unusually giddy - maybe they’re dressing differently? - then ask if they are in love.

People who have embarked on a passionate romance are less able to focus and perform attention-acquiring tasks a new study has found.

“When you have just become involved in a romantic relationship you'll probably find it harder to focus on other things because you spend a large part of your cognitive resources on thinking of your beloved,” researcher Henk van Steenbergen explained to the Daily Mail.

Van Steenbergen, along with colleagues from Leiden University and the University of Maryland, studied 43 participants who had been in a relationship for less than six months.

They required the participants to complete a series of tasks, including being timed as they sorted irrelevant from relevant information. To gage how in love they were they were also required to listen to music that “elicited romantic feelings” and think of a romantic event, before filling in a questionnaire.

They found that the more in love the individual was, regardless of whether they were male or female, the less able they were to “hone in” on the relevant information.

Van Steenbergen said it is unknown why romantic love is associated with cognitive control.

Unfortunately the study, which was published in the Motivation and Emotion journal, doesn’t provide advice on to how to refocus the distracted colleague.

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