ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Are You Lowering Your Verbal Creativity Doing This Common Thing?

Posted by Plish on February 28, 2019

You’re working on a creative project involving verbiage.  So, you crank up the tunes and listen to your favorite creative mix of instrumental music.

Do you think you’ll be more or less creative than the following scenarios?

  1. Listening to background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics
  2. Music with familiar lyrics

If you’re like me you probably thought that you’d be more creative than scenario #1, but less creative than scenario #2.

You’d be wrong, as I was.

Actually, turning on music in the first place is the problem.  Even if it puts you in a good mood.  According to recent research from Lancaster University, silence or simply background noise (like a library) enables better verbal creativity and verbal insight problem solving.   It appears that the nature of music (of any type!) distracts verbal processes in the brain, which for creative verbal insight problem solving, is a bad thing.

This might not hold though for other types of visual-spatial creative problem solving.  In those cases, background music may actually benefit.  One theory is that the distraction provided by music actually may provide more room for creative wandering so to speak.  That extra space may let ideas flow. ( A fascinating description on the role of background music in verbal versus visual-spatial states is on pages 12 and 13 of the study here.  )

Still, the fact that music is not helpful in a type of creative activity is a shock to those who love music and often turn it on out of habit.

What’s the lesson then?

Understand what type of creative problem you’re solving before adjusting your environment.  We can do things to make ourselves more creative.  Sometimes habits, even pleasing ones, can work against creativity.

What do you think about this research?

 

 

 

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