How about that for a grabber of a headline?
This post in about a study that says listening to music while you work may actually hamper your creativity and output. It was published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
Researchers gave subject some word puzzles that were designed to tap into creative thought and “insight-based processes.” Some folks had to work on the puzzles in a quiet space, others listened to music in the background as they tackled the assignment.
The people who listened to music did worse. And it didn’t matter what kind of music was played. Whether it was music the people already knew or music they had never heard before, instrumental or with vocals, the scores fell compared to people in the quiet setting.
So the long held belief that music enhances creativity may be bogus.
But other studies disagree. In 2017, PLOS ONE published research that found listening to “happy” music (upbeat and melodic) improved performance on tasks involving having to think outside the box. Other inquiries show that music lowers anxiety, which ought to make creative thinking easier.
Mark Beeman is a professor at Northwestern University, and he says that creative problem solving typically follows a predictable series of steps:
Step 1: You look at all the obvious solutions, and realize none of them will work.
Step 2: Your brain continues to mull over the problem in the background.
Oddly, if you think too hard about it in Step 2, you won’t be able to reach any of that sweet creative insight.
So Dr. Beeman says that music can be the kind of mild distraction that allows the brain to get to the answer more easily.
Although the type of music that will work best is a very individualized determination, there are a couple of good rules of thumb: