Study finds link among weather, disposition


    Professors might want to take note that students may get restless in the classroom now that springtime is in the air.Researchers at the University of Michigan have found that spending time indoors when the weather outside is pleasant can decrease mood and susceptibility to new information and creative thoughts.

    According to the University of Michigan Web site, people experience their best moods when they spend at least 30 minutes a day outdoors in warm, sunny weather. Peak moods occur in Texas when it is 86 degrees, the research found.

    Teresa Blackwell, a Spanish instructor, said she has noticed students’ bodies may be in their chairs, but their minds are nowhere to be found when weather is nicer.

    “The last beautiful day, just at the beginning of class, a student asked if we could meet outside,” Blackwell said. “I almost lost the class after that comment. Everyone thought that was a great idea and mentally switched to outside.”

    Blackwell isn’t the only faculty member who has been asked to hold class outside.

    Keith Whitworth, a sociology instructor, said when spring rolls around, more students ask if class can meet outside.

    He said the desire to be outside could be attributed to a lack of motivation or students simply wanting to be outdoors when the weather is nice.

    Whitworh said it is hard to measure productivity level in the classroom, but there is a correlation between attendance and the weather.

    “There are more absences when the weather begins to change in the spring,” Whitworth said. “I don’t see a pattern of change in the fall. It usually starts around Spring Break.”

    Whitworth went on to say rain hasn’t really affected attendance.

    “I am amazed when students walk in literally dripping wet and ready for class,” Whitworth said.

    Blackwell also said she noticed students seem more prepared to learn when it is less than pleasant outside.

    “On rainy and cloudy days, it seems that students settle down to work more easily,” Blackwell said. “We do a lot of talking, discussion, interacting, and I feel like the class bonds and feels more like a unit when it is overcast and dark outside.”

    Ward Curry, a senior environmental science major, had a scientific theory to explain the effects of weather on his behavior.

    “I think that high and low pressure systems and the atmosphere can affect our moods and daily life more than whether it is cloudy or sunny outside,” Curry said.

    Curry said he functions better on low-pressure days and when it is dark outside.

    “Sometimes I feel more invigorated when there are large thunderstorms,” Curry said. “It’s the energy in the air.”

    Angie Payne, a junior sociology major, had a more simple explanation on the way weather affects her mood.

    “If it is a nice and sunny day it makes me want to be outside,” Payne said. “If it is dark and cloudy outside, it makes me feel depressed.”

    Students may want to take advantage of the nice weather while it lasts.

    The researchers found hot weather during the summer lowered mood levels, and the effects of pleasant weather were far less noticeable in other seasons.