For your next brainstorming session, consider queueing up some feel good tunes: new research published in the journal PLOS ONE found that listening to “happy music” could make your thinking more flexible and help you come up with innovative ideas, according to the study’s press release.
Simone Ritter, PhD, from Radboud University in the Netherlands and Sam Ferguson, PhD, from the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, recruited 155 participants to research the relationship between creative thinking and music. Participants completed questionnaires that measured their current mood, and were split into five groups. Four of the groups each listened to a different type of music—calm, anxious, happy or sad—while performing cognitive tasks testing their creativity, while the fifth group served as a control, completing the same tasks to the tune of silence.
The researchers found that happy music—defined in the press release as “classical music that is positive valence and high in arousal”—helped participants come up with more creative solutions compared to working in silence. Specifically, those participants scored higher on divergent creativity than convergent creativity. That difference is key: divergent thinking involves making “unexpected combinations, recognizing links among remote associates, or transforming information into unexpected forms,” according to the study. Convergent creativity, on the other hand, is more about coming up with the “best, well-established, or correct answer to a problem where an answer readily exists,” the study said.
This suggests that happy music could make our thinking more fluid, and that “creative cognition may be enhanced through music,” according to the press release. This could be used as a cost-effective and efficient way to improve creativity in classroom or office settings, the press release notes.
So depending on your task, instead of toiling away to the sound of white noise or coffee shop sounds, try putting on something the researchers define as happy, like this.