Music: Killing Creativity Softly

It’s intuitive to think music boosts creativity. To some extent, it’s true. 

But when it comes to verbal creativity, recent research out of Lancaster University shows that music—regardless of whether it’s classical, or foreign, or self-indulgent feel-good pop—messes with ideation and problem solving. Silence is golden.

How did they figure that out?
Researchers presented people with verbal insight problems believed to tap into creativity. For example, “Find a word associated to the following: dial, dress, and flower.” (Can you figure it out? The answer is below.)

Participants completed their problems in different auditory environments. The ones who worked in silence (or with minimal noise, like in a library) scored higher than their peers. 

Music “significantly impaired” the rest of the pack, even the folks who typically work with in noisy environments. Sound variations interfere with your brain’s ability to excel.

So what?
It means that jamming to Kings of Leon during a brainstorming session is definitely a bad idea, not that you needed proof. (Again, start at the 45-second mark. 15 seconds of hysteria can be yours.)

It means you can increase productivity by considering when to throw on your headphones at work. 

If music keeps you motivated, great. Just reserve it for time spent doing routine or process-driven tasks. Otherwise, keep your headphones on but kill the volume. You’ll boost creativity and solve problems faster.

FOR THE NERDY: Read the academic report. (Last call for this gem. Begin at 0:45)

PS. The answer is “sun”