Listening to happy music
while working may spark the kind of divergent thinking that’s associated with creativity and problem solving, a recent study in the Netherlands suggests.
In particular, classical music
that ranks highly for positive and energetic qualities, such as pieces composed by Antonio Vivaldi, were most likely to encourage creative thinking, researchers found. “Creativity is one of the core skills needed for dealing with a world that is changing faster than ever before,” said study co-author Sam Ferguson of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. “Knowledge about ways to facilitate this important skill is becoming more critical,” he told Reuters.
Ferguson and Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen played classical music
for 155 Radboud student volunteers as they completed a creativity task. The researchers split the students into five groups, with each group randomly assigned to listen to one of four pieces of music
or to silence before and during their creativity tasks.
pieces were chosen for their mood and arousal levels. The Swan by Camille Saint-Saens represented a positive mood but low arousal level, thus a calm piece of music.
Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons was the happy piece, Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber was the sad, slow piece and The Planets: Mars, Bringer of War by Gustav Holst was used as a negative, arousing — in other words, anxious — piece. To test creativity, the research team focused mainly on divergent thinking, which involves producing multiple answers from available information by making unexpected combinations, recognising associations among ideas and transforming information into unexpected forms. Divergent thinking is key to today’s scientific, technological and cultural fields because innovation often pairs disparate ideas, the authors write in PLoS ONE.
“One thing to point out is that divergent thinking is not equivalent to creative thinking, but it’s a proxy measure often used in research,” said Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who wasn’t involved with the study.