Adding Music for Creativity? Beware! (03-01-19)

Research conducted by Threadgold and colleagues indicates the dangers of listening to music while attempting to think creatively.  The Threadgold-lead group reports that they “investigated the impact of background music on performance of Compound Remote Associate Tasks (CRATs), which are widely thought to tap creativity. Background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics . . . instrumental music without lyrics . . . and music with familiar lyrics . . . all significantly impaired CRAT performance in comparison with quiet background conditions.” A CRAT is described: it “involves a participant being shown three words (e.g., dress, dial, and flower), with the requirement being to find a single associated word (in this case ‘sun’) that can be combined with each presented word . . . to make a common word or phrase (i.e., sundress, sundial, and sunflower . . .).”  Creative performance in the “quiet” condition was similar to performance in a “library” noise condition, and the library noise condition was described: “library noise consisted of distant (nonintelligible) speech, photocopier noise, typing, and rustling of papers.”

Emma Threadgold, John Marsh, Neil McLatchie, and Linden Ball. 2019. “Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence from Compound Remote Associate Tasks.”  Applied Cognitive Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3532