Music and Convergent Thinking

According to an article on the Pacific Standard website, reporting on research conducted by psychologists at the University of Central Lancashire in England, listening to music may help you relax, but apparently it can impair your creativity.

In several studies, participants were given three words, such as “dress”, “dial,” and “flower,” and asked to come up with a fourth word that paired naturally with each. For example, “sun” compliments each of those words. Thirty university students did the exercise while listening to a pop song that had been translated into Spanish while the other performed in silence. The group working without music solved significantly more problems. In a similar experiment, subjects listened to instrumental music, or nothing at all. Again, those working without music performed better.

The study appears to contradict the results of an earlier experiment, in which fast-paced, uplifting classical music like Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” appeared to enhance divergent thinking— the ability to come up with new concepts or hybrid ideas. That study, however, found no musical effect on convergent thinking, or the ability to narrow down ideas until finding one that works—an important part of the creative process.

Consider putting your headphones away to stimulate creative thinking when looking for innovative ideas.

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