By Andrea Romano
March 06, 2019
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Think listening to music boosts your creativity? Think again: New research suggests that silence does way more than your background music.

According to a study published in Applied Psychology: An International Review by psychologists from Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Gävle, background music can “significantly impair” creativity, Medical News Today reported. Instead, the study suggests that silence is truly golden when it comes to getting a creative task done.

“We found strong evidence impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions,” said co-author Dr. Neil McLatchie, who works in the psychology department at Lancaster University.

According to the Daily Mail, psychologists note that listening to background music has been a popular creativity booster for creative tasks like drawing, but can be detrimental to problem solving or verbal creativity.

That includes any kind of music, whether it’s the latest hit on Spotify or gentle piano playing with no lyrics.

The experiments involved giving participants a series of three words and asking them to think of a fourth word to add to the front or end of the given words, creating a new phrase, according to Medical News Today. Such as, if a participant were given the words “dial,” “dress” or “flower,” they could add the fourth word, “sun,” to create “sundial,” “sundress” or “sunflower.”

This task was judged in different environments: quiet, library noise, or with music in the background. The researchers also studied the type of music, including instrumental, music with familiar lyrics, and music with unfamiliar lyrics. The study concluded that participants were “significantly impaired” while performing the verbal creativity tasks in the music environment, while there was no effect in the quiet or library noise environments. The study concluded that music could possibly hinder a person’s verbal working memory.

“The findings here challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity, and instead demonstrate that music, regardless of the presence of semantic content - no lyrics, familiar lyrics or unfamiliar lyrics - consistently disrupts creative performance in insight problem solving,” the study found.

So, if you’re looking to boost your verbal or problem solving creativity, it might be good to turn the radio (or your Spotify) off.

Other studies have concluded that drinking a glass of wine or regularly consuming tea can make a person more creative.

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