Singing while working is something that’s associated with fishermen, miners, wool crafters, and many more types of occupations. It’s a common adage that whistling while you work makes the time go by faster, and many workplaces utilize background ambient music. It turns out that listening to pleasant music while working isn’t just helping you find your way through tedious or otherwise boring tasks, but it may be enhancing your creativity.
A study from a few years ago by the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, studied the effects of music (specifically, different types of music like sad or happy) on the working brain. The study group of 155 participants were split into four groups of different types of music that were associated with positive or negative emotions and were then asked to work on tasks which measured cognitive abilities. Within these tests, the researchers were looking at creativity in both convergent and divergent aspects.
To get a higher score in divergent creativity, the participants had to exhibit unique and useful solutions to the problem, and those who came up with the number one solution to a task scored higher in the convergent sphere of creativity.
Compared to just silence, those people who listened to “happy” classical music were better at divergent thinking. Classical music that fit this description seemed to help the participants engage in more flexible cognitive thinking, mainly because that type of classical music seemed to boost the arousal within the brain.
When it comes to choosing a soundtrack next time you study or work, consider an upbeat song or tune into your favorite light classical tune to boost your creativity—and pass the time!
Simone M. Ritter, Sam Ferguson. Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (9): e0182210 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182210