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Happy music stimulates creativity and outside-the-box thinking

Research from Australia and the Netherlands has revealed that listening to happy music affects creative cognition in a positive way. People may develop more unique ideas and innovative solutions while listening to music compared to those working in silence.

The study was conducted by by Simone Ritter from Radboud University and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology Sydney. The researchers enlisted the help of 155 individuals who completed questionnaires before being divided into groups. Each group was exposed to a different type of music that was classified as either calm, happy, sad, or anxious. In addition, a control group was not exposed to music.

The volunteers attempted various cognitive tasks that tested their divergent and convergent creative thinking. Original and useful solutions to a task earned the participants a high score in divergent creativity, while those who came up with the best possible solution to a task earned a high score in convergent creativity.

The study showed that listening to happy music promotes divergent creative thinking. The researchers define happy music as classical music that has a positive emotional valence and is high in arousal. These variables which constitute happy music may enhance flexibility in thinking. This inspires solutions that may never have been conceived in silence, according to the authors.

The study, which is published today in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that creative cognition is boosted by music. The authors suggest that music could provide an inexpensive way to inspire creativity in both school and work settings. Future research could explore how different ambient sounds affect creativity in a diverse range of people, including participants with varying levels of experience in music.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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