Do you listen to music while working? It could be affecting your creativity.
Researchers from universities in England and Sweden recently conducted a study, published in the journal Cognitive Psychology, to investigate the impact of background music on creativity.
To do so, they examined about 100 students and tested their ability to listen to music while completing an activity using the Compound Remote Associate Tasks, which are tests used to evaluate insight-based creative problem solving.
For CRATs, participants are shown three words, like dress, dial and flower. They are then required to name one word that could be combined with all three words, in this case, for example, sun, which would create the words sundress, sundial and sunflower.
The scientists asked the subjects to complete such a task while either listening to nothing, background music with foreign lyrics, instrumental music without lyrics or music with familiar lyrics.
After analyzing the results, the team found that those who listened to music while doing a task were less creative compared with those who were in quiet conditions. In fact, the music listeners' creative performance was "significantly impaired."
"We found strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions," co-author Neil McLatchie.
The scientists did not explore why music might be distracting. However, they hypothesize that music disrupts our verbal working memory, which can make it more difficult to finish a task.