Listening to music can impair creativity

February 26, 2019 11:00 am
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Music can help boost mood, creativity, and productivity. At least, this is what many believe as they listen to music while working. However, psychologists from the University of Central Lancashire, University of Gävle in Sweden and Lancaster University discovered that music may actually decrease listener’s creativity when solving verbal insight problems.


The experiment that proved music to be disruptive

The psychologists presented participants with sets of three words. The participants then searched for a common word that can combine with each of the three words to create new words. For example, given the words: flower, dress, and dial, “sun” is a common word which creates the words: sunflower, sundress, and sundial. While performing these tasks, users are exposed to three conditions: background music with unfamiliar lyrics, instrumental music without lyrics, and music with familiar lyrics.

The results showed that background music greatly impaired participants’ ability to complete these tasks. Specifically, they struggled the most with music with familiar lyrics despite how they felt about the songs. The findings challenge the conventional view that music enhances creativity. Instead, they suggest that music, especially familiar music, disrupts creativity in insight problem solving. Perhaps students will now think twice before putting on headphones before studying.

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This post was written by Helen