Try listening to happy music for innovative solutions

written by Meena Azzollini

Beautiful young brunette listening to music with headphones, laughing Credit:123RF

In today’s dynamic and complex world, creativity is an important quality which helps generate new ideas and solutions to a range of problems.
Creativity helps us deal with opportunities and challenges in innovative ways.

Creative cognition and what facilitates creativity has been studied over time through various studies but the role of music in creative cognition has remained largely unexplored.

The researchers found that creativity was higher when participants listened to what they called “happy music” – classical music high on arousal and positive mood.

To investigate these researchers from Radboud University, The Netherlands recruited 155 participants who completed questionnaires and were split up into experimental groups.

Each group listened to one of the four specific types of music which were categorized as calm, happy, sad or anxious depending on the emotional valence (positive or negative) and arousal (high or low). The control group listened to silence.

After the music started, participants were given various cognitive tasks which tested their divergent and convergent creative thinking.

Participants who came up with a useful and most original solution to a task scored higher in divergent creativity while participants who came up with a single best solution to a task scored higher in convergent creativity.

Divergent thinking tests are open-ended tests. In the Alternative Uses Task (AUT) participants are asked to list as many different and creative uses (for a ‘brick’) as possible.

Convergent thinking tests measure whether a participant can come up with the best, most well-established or correct answer to a problem where an answer readily exists. In the current study convergent thinking was tested by means of the Idea Selection Task, Remote Associates Task and Creative Insight Task.

The researchers found that creativity was higher when participants listened to what they called “happy music” – classical music high on arousal and positive mood. This facilitated more divergent creative thinking than listening to silence.

No effect of music was found on convergent creativity.

The researcher believe that variables in happy music condition may be responsible for enhancing creativity and flexibility in thinking so that participants could consider other solutions which they might not have thought of if they were performing the task in silence.

Listening to happy music did not have an effect on convergent thinking as researchers believe that convergent tasks rely less on flexibility and fluency and more on finding the one correct answer.

This study shows that happy music has a positive effect on creativity where creative cognition can be enhanced just by listening to music which could present inexpensive and efficient ways of finding solutions in various scientific, educational and organizational settings.

When you need to think of a solution to a problem, not only put on your thinking cap but also a set of headphones to listen to some happy tunes.

Source: PLOS ONE


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!