Participants who came up with the most original and useful solutions to a task scored higher in divergent creativity, while participants who came up with the single best possible solution to a task scored higher in convergent creativity. (Shutterstock/File)
If you’re stuck on a project and need some inspiration, listening to happy music could help you think of more creative solutions than listening to silence according to new research.
The study was carried out by Simone Ritter from Radboud University, The Netherlands and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
Researchers recruited 155 participants to investigate the effect of music on creative cognition – the ability to come up with creative ideas, problem solutions and products.
Participants were split into groups and asked to listen to one of four different types of music: calm, happy, sad, or anxious, with one control group listening to only silence.
After the music started playing, participants performed various cognitive tasks that tested their divergent thinking and convergent creative thinking.
Participants who came up with the most original and useful solutions to a task scored higher in divergent creativity, while participants who came up with the single best possible solution to a task scored higher in convergent creativity.
The results showed that those who listened to happy music, which was defined as classical music that generated positive emotions and high arousal, showed a higher level of divergent creative thinking, but not convergent thinking, compared to those who listened to silence.
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The authors suggest that the happy music may have enhanced flexibility in the participant’s thinking, so that they came up with a wider range of solutions which may not have occurred to them if they were performing the task in silence.
They also added that a flexible thinking style is not limited to one particular creative field, but is equally valid for artistic, verbal and scientific creativity.
However, as convergent tasks rely less on flexibility and more on finding one correct answer, this may be why the happy music did not boost convergent creativity.
The team now believe that further research could explore how different ambient sounds may affect creativity and include participants of diverse cultures, age groups, and levels of music experience.
They also suggest that music could be used as an inexpensive but effective way to boost creative thinking in a variety of situations and settings.
The findings can be found published in the journal PLOS ONE.