Thought listening to Mozart helps you to concentrate? Think again! Background music disrupts creativity and verbal reasoning, experts say
- Scientists found that music ‘consistently disrupts creative performance’
- It doesn’t matter if the music is instrumental, has lyrics or in a different language
- There is no difference whether the music lifted the individual’s mood
- That music boosts mental functions and creativity may be a great myth after all
The common belief that music boosts brain function and spurs creativity may be little more than a myth, after researchers found ‘strong’ evidence to suggest the opposite to be true.
Music was found to significantly ‘disrupt’ a host of brain functions that are associated with creativity, including verbal ability and problem solving, a new study has showed.
Performing these tasks under library environments however did not affect performance when compared to with working in the quiet.
Putting background music on while you work or revise could in fact stunt creativity and prevents concentration, contrary to popular belief.
Putting background music on as you work or revise actually stunts creativity and prevents concentration, new research suggests. The popular belief that listening to music boosts creativity is a myth and actually has the opposite effect of disrupting creative verbal ability
The effect of listening to background music on performance on creativity was tested using ‘verbal insight problems’ that are thought to tap into the creative brain functions.
Findings show that background music ‘significantly impaired’ a person’s ability to complete these tasks involving verbal creativity.
Dr Emma Threadgold at the University of Central Lancashire, who led on the study, said: ‘We found strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions.’
‘Creativity is a vital aspect of cognition underpinning activities such as innovative product design, scientific advancement, and effective advertising and marketing communications.
‘Background music is an environmental stimulus known to influence cognitive performance, which has also been claimed to enhance people’s creativity for tasks involving spatial abilities such as drawing.
‘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.’
During the study, participants had to perform tasks like puzzles either in a quiet environment, or while in one of three environments involving listening to music.
The conditions that involved music were: instrumental music with no lyrics, music with foreign lyrics (or unfamiliar lyrics), or music with familiar lyrics.
During the study, participants had to perform verbal creativity tasks such as puzzles either in a quiet environment, or listening to one of three types of music. Under all three music conditions, an individual’s ability to perform the tasks was ‘significantly’ impaired
The study found there was no significant difference in performance of the verbal tasks between when they were performances in the quiet and under library noise conditions.
In all three cases, there was strong impairment of verbal working memory compared to either working with no noise or under library conditions.
Researchers say this is because library noise is a ‘steady state’ environment which is not as disruptive.
The team also found that even when the music was boosting the mood of individuals, their creative ability remained impaired during the tasks.
It also did not make a difference whether the individuals typically studied with music in the background.
The current findings challenges previous research that show ‘happy music’ boosted the creativity of individuals.
The study has been published in journal Applied Psychology: An International Review.