Participants who listen to happy music find more creative solutions to problems as compared to those who do not listen to anything, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study, conducted by Simone M. Ritter from Radboud University in the Netherlands and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, had 155 people sorted into five groups. Before the experiment, the subjects were given a questionnaire to weed out the chance of pre-existing moods interfering with the study. Each group was then told to listen to a different type of music based on its valence, which is a measure of the attractiveness of an object or situation, and its arousal. The different types of music listened to were calm music, which has positive valence and low arousal; happy music, which has positive valence and high arousal; sad music, which has negative valence and low arousal and anxious music, which has negative valence and high arousal. The fifth group was the control group and subjected to silence. Every group took two tests, one for divergent thinking and another for convergent thinking. The results of the tests revealed that happy music allowed for a significantly higher score on the divergent creativity test than silence did, while there was no effect on the convergent creativity test scores. The researchers suggested that the variables involved with happy music facilitate flexibility in thinking.
Divergent creativity is defined as the type of creativity that one indulges in when he or she tries to find different solutions to a posed question, while convergent creativity is the type of creativity that people use to find a single correct answer. Divergent thinking allows one to create any number of ideas without limitation, while convergent thinking narrows down that number of ideas to gain clarity. The highest level of creativity demands both divergent and convergent thinking. There are roadblocks that one can come across in life, and having the creativity to be able to find innovative solutions to go around these roadblocks is an invaluable skill.
This makes sense because during the period in which humans evolved, there was never the dull monotony of a desk job at an office. People were always surrounded by the ambient noises of birds chirping, water lapping, winds whooshing and fires crackling. Even if someone were to go back only a couple of centuries, they would find droves of successful people like Charles Dickens, Søren Kierkegaard and Henry Thoreau, who used to saunter through their neighborhoods daily in an effort to find that ambience. Now with the advent of apps like Spotify at one’s fingertips, one may find that they do not need to wander aimlessly in order to find what these greats of history were searching for.
While more investigation needs to be done to see how music compares with other ways of increasing divergent thinking, we can keep tapping our feet to happy beats for now, knowing we are using a simple, stress-free way to increase our creativity.