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Does listening to background music increase creativity? Study suggests a silent background is more helpful

While it is widely believed that listening to music increases creativity, a recent study that featured in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology challenges it. As per the study, quietness, or even background library noise, is more beneficial than music.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
March 4, 2019 2:55:26 pm
Applied Cognitive Psychology, listening to music creativity, how to impreove or increase creativity, background music creativity, indian express, indian express news Quiet background better for creativity than music. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock Images)

While it is widely believed that listening to music increases creativity, a recent study that featured in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology challenges it. As per the study, quietness, or even background library noise, is more beneficial than music.

The researchers from the University of Gävle in Sweden and the University of Central Lancashire and Lancaster University, both in the United Kingdom, conducted a series of experiments with human volunteers and as per Medical Daily, “they have come to the conclusion that music can “significantly impair” people’s ability to solve tasks that involve verbal creativity.”

For the purpose of the study, “the researchers investigated the effect of listening to music on people’s ability to complete word tasks that call for creativity. The tasks were a variant of “Compound Remote Associate Tasks (CRATs),” which many scientists use to study creativity that involves “insight-based processes”….A CRAT verbal creativity test involves showing a person three words and asking them to think of a fourth word that they can add either to the front or the end of each of the three words to make three new words or phrases.”

“We found strong evidence,” said co-author Dr Neil McLatchie, who works in the psychology department at Lancaster University, “of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions.”

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In an attempt to find out whether or not music disrupts verbal working memory, the investigators ran experiments in which they invited volunteers to complete CRAT verbal creativity tests under different background sound conditions – like a quiet background, a library noise background, or with music playing in the background. There were three different types of music: instrumental only, with familiar lyrics, and with unfamiliar lyrics.

As per the same report, it was found that “listening to music “significantly impaired” performance on the verbal creativity tasks compared with a quiet or library noise background. This finding was consistent across all three types of music.

In addition, in tests on the effect of music with familiar lyrics, listening to music impaired performance regardless of its effect on mood and whether or not the participant liked it. The team found that this was still the case for those who typically listen to music while they work.”information.

“[T]he findings here challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity, and instead demonstrate that music, regardless of the presence of semantic content (no lyrics, familiar lyrics, or unfamiliar lyrics), consistently disrupts creative performance in insight problem-solving”, the study stated.

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