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Listening to music can ‘significantly impair’ creativity, study says

Do you listen to music while working? It could be affecting your creativity, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from universities in England and Sweden recently conducted a small 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 the three words they were given, such as 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 those who listened to music while doing a task were less creative, compared to 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 said in a statement.

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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.

“The third experiment — exposure to music with familiar lyrics — impaired creativity regardless of whether the music also boosted mood, induced a positive mood, was liked by the participants, or whether participants typically studied in the presence of music,” the authors said.

Previous studies have examined the effects of listening to music. 

For example, a study from 2013 said listening to music can make you feel happier. A student at Harvard University published a report last year that found music can give some individuals goosebumps, while others don’t experience any at all. And researchers at universities in Florida and Oregon said our favorite songs can have an effect on how we order food. 

Want to learn more about the latest findings? Take a look here

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