A study featuring in a journal called Applied Cognitive Psychology has described how background music can help enhance creativity levels.
Testing the Creative Performance
The study used the CRAT verbal creativity test that includes showing an individual three words and asking them to think of a fourth one to add at the beginning or the end of these words to make a new phrase.
For instance, providing the word “match” to the words “stick/maker/point” will be considered as a correct answer as it forms the accurate phrase.
The researchers have maintained that there is little scientific evidence to support this claim that music enhances creative problem-solving.
They have referred to a study that claims to show that music can help improve creativity. This study utilized the Alternative Uses Task in which the participants were asked to give as many new uses as they can think of in context with an everyday object like a brick or paper clip.
However, the Alternative Uses Task only includes divergent thinking which aids the person in generating different options. CRATs, on the other hand, has also demanded creative convergent thinking which provides connection of different ideas to determine a single correct solution to the problem.
Does Music Disrupt the Verbal Working Memory?
In this recent study, the researchers performed experiments on participants for completion of the CRAT verbal creativity test with different background sound conditions.
The participants who performed the tests in a quiet background, the library noise background, or music in the background. The music played at the background was of three different types: instrumental, instrumental with familiar lyrics, and that with unfamiliar lyrics.
The results depicted that listening to music was impairing the performance of the individuals in verbal creativity tasks as compared to the library noise background. This finding was found to be consistent in all three types of music.
In addition, in the tests regarding the effects of music with familiar music, the performances were impaired irrespective of the effects on the mood or whether or not the participants liked them.
The team also found a similar case in those who listened to music while working.
The underlying mechanisms for these effects could not be studied, however, the researchers suggested that listening to music was able to disrupt the verbal working memory that supported creative problem-solving.
Working memory can be considered as a temporary scratchpad for holding as well as manipulating information. All activities such as writing, driving, conversing and making decisions require this type of memory.
Brain imaging has revealed that this type of memory can activate the secondary motor areas, even when there is inactivation of the primary motor areas of speech.
Scientists have also suggested how there are two types of working memory, the verbal working memory that stores and manipulates the word-based information on a temporary basis, and the visuospatial working memory in order to do the same with visual information.
The researchers found no differences in the performance of tasks that participants completed in quiet background as compared to those in the library noise background.