The new (and boring!) Starbucks by Global X via Flickr

I can never work in a quiet room. I just can’t. I always have to have some kind of noise in the background like a TV or the kids playing outside or something. I used to drive my parents nuts listening to my Walkman (yes, I just dated myself) while doing homework. But it turns out that subconsciously I knew what my brain needed to be creative even though my parents kept telling me to take off the headphones. I needed noise and turns out I was right. A moderate amount of noise (70db), like the sound of a busy coffee shop or restaurant, may actually trigger your brain to think more abstractly and increase your creativity researchers have found.

The Atlantic: Researchers led by Ravi Mehta conducted five experiments to understand how ambient sounds affect creative cognition. In one key trial, they tested people’s creativity at different levels of background noise by asking participants to brainstorm ideas for a new type of mattress or enumerate uncommon uses for a common object.

Compared to a relatively quiet environment (50 decibels), a moderate level of ambient noise (70 dB) enhanced subjects’ performance on the creativity tasks, while a high level of noise (85 dB) hurt it. Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively.

You can read the full study, “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition,” in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Photo by Global X via Flickr.

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