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Relationship between contentment and working memory capacity: Experimental and naturalistic evidence

Chua, K. Q., Ng, R., Sung, C. L. Q., Hartanto, A., Oh, V. Y. S., & Tong, E. M. W.

October 2023


Contentment is a positive emotion characterized by perceived goal attainment, a sense of having or being enough, and a focus on the present. Research on this new construct is thin, and no studies have examined its cognitive properties, particularly whether it facilitates or impairs controlled cognitive processes. We hypothesize that contentment positively predicts work-ing memory. We found support for this hypothesis in two experimental studies (Studies 1 and 2) which showed that induced contentment improved working memory in the operation span task, and in one non-experimental study (Study 3) which showed that measured contentment positively correlated with working memory on the backward digit span task. In addition, induced amusement (Study 1) and hope (Study 2) did not affect working memory, and measured happiness did not correlate with working memory (Study 3), supporting the uniqueness of contentment as a predictor of greater working memory. We discuss the implications that the combined characteristics of contentment, including perceptions of goal attainment and being low in arousal and approach, and its associations with relevant constructs of negative affectivity and mindfulness, could enable it to be uniquely predictive of better working memory.

Keywords: Contentment, Working memory, Positive emotions, Executive functions

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