Seasonal Study Habits: How weather affects our productivity

Does weather affect how well we study for the EPPP? The unpredictability of spring weather is cause to think about whether productivity peaks on the blustery spring days or the sunny ones that get us excited for summer.

As it turns out, our ability to sustain attention peaks during the summer whereas sunny days decrease productivity due to distraction.

The Telegraph published an article called Why Winter is a Mental Struggle: human brain more active in summer, scientists find. It goes into how our cognitive function differs in varying seasons. A study in Belgium on seasonal cognitive brain function is referenced where people were studied performing tasks that tested their ability to store information and sustain attention from season to season. The way brain functioned throughout the seasons differed.

“Researchers at the University of Liege in Belgium, believe that it is a remnant of ancient rhythms when humans were highly attuned to the seasons in the way that they are not today.

For example the brain takes a lot of energy to run, so when food was scarce in the winter, it would make sense to dial down the parts that were not absolutely necessary to survival.

When food was plentiful, such as at harvest time, higher brain functions, such as working memory, which is needed for reasoning, comprehension and learning would be given a boost.”

Conclusively the findings of the study showed that during summer, sustaining attention peaked whereas working memory peaked in fall.

“Brain activity related to attention peaked in June near the summer solstice and was lowest near the winter solstice.

In contrast, working memory-related brain activity peaked in fall and was lower near the spring equinox, potentially linked to harvest time, when food was plentiful.”

In regards to how you study for the EPPP this spring, this study could suggest that you might be experiencing a peak in your ability to sustain attention.

Although research in Belgium has shown that our cognitive ability to sustain attention may peak during summer, a decrease in productivity may be linked to sunny days according to a study done in Tokyo.

Harvard Business School published an article called Blue Skies Distractions Arise: How Weather Affects Productivity which details the results of a study done in Tokyo on the link between rainy days and productivity.

“The research team matched the date to meteorological data in Tokyo during that period. (Tokyo is a city that sees its share of sunny weather and torrential downpours, as well as significant temperature and humidity shifts.) In short, they found that an increase in rain correlated with a decrease in the time it took for workers to complete their tasks. Low visibility and extreme temperatures also matched periods of high worker productivity. Clear, sunny days correlated with relatively low productivity.”

Higher productivity is linked to rainy days due to less distraction and less longing to be outside. Although there is little research on the matter of productivity from state to state in correlation to weather across the nation, this study could lead to an assumption as to why New York City is the city that never sleeps as opposed to the west coast city of Los Angeles.

The two research conclusions of the Belgium study and the Tokyo study seem a bit opposing. On the one hand we have the study in Belgium that concludes that our ability to sustain attention peaks during the summer. On the other hand we have a study in Tokyo that concludes the sunny skies of summer cause distraction and decrease productivity.

Because our cognitive ability to sustain attention peaks in the summer yet distractions arise on sunny days, it is possible to draw an assumption that the unpredictability of spring weather might be a good platform for studying for the EPPP. In spring, our cognitive ability to sustain attention is beginning to rise as summer approaches but we can also take advantage of the rainy day weather that is correlated to higher productivity than a sunny day.

This could mean those blustery days that interrupt our hope for summer might just be a tool to help us tackle the to-do list.

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