Want to Generate Ideas? Choose Your Happy Music

| By TMA World

Few would deny that creativity is important in our complex and fast-changing world.  We need to generate solutions for a multitude of difficult challenges.  

Knowing how to facilitate creative thinking is becoming increasingly important.  While music has previously been shown to benefit thinking, little is known about how listening to music supports creative thinking specifically.

Researchers from Radboud University in The Netherlands and the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia split 155 participants into five randomly assigned experimental groups.  Each group listened to one of four pieces of classical music or to silence before and during doing a creative task.

The four pieces of music were categorized as calm, happy, sad, or anxious depending on their emotional valance (positive, negative) and arousal (high, low).  One control group listened to silence.

The four pieces of music were:

  • The Swan by Camille Saint-Saenspositive mood, but low arousal level.
  • Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons Springhappy.
  • Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Stringssad, slow.
  • The Planets: Mars, Bringer of War by Gustav Holstnegative, arousing, anxious.

After the music started playing, participants performed a cognitive task to test their divergent and convergent thinking:

  • Divergent – generating multiple answers from available information the most original and useful solutions.
  • Convergent – generating the single best possible solution

Students were asked about their moods before the test began, as well as how much they liked the music.  Student’s moods before testing did not make a difference to their creativity in the task. It also didn’t matter how much they liked the music or how familiar they were with the piece.

The type of music did not make a significant difference in performance – compared to silence – except for happy music.  Happy music, like the Vivaldi piece, made the most difference in divergent thinking but not in convergent thinking.  The researchers suggest that the variables involved in listening to the happy music may enhance thinking flexibility. 

Get your Vivaldi Spring right here.  

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