Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition

From: Jan S.
Sent: June 20, 2012
To: undisclosed recipients
Subject: Fw: Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition
Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition
I always wondered how in the world people could sit in a crowded coffee shop or dinner and study or work. Apparently for many people it's not a problem at all. Interesting read. Jan
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PROBLEM: To optimize creativity, how quiet or noisy should your work-space be?


METHODOLOGY: 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.

RESULTS: 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. (Here's a helpful chart on typical noise levels.)

CONCLUSION: The next time you're stumped on a creative challenge, head to a bustling coffee shop, not the library. As the researchers write in their paper, "[I]nstead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one's comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas."

SOURCE: The full study, "Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition," is published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Source

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