Listening To Music Makes You Less Creative So You Might Want To Press Pause

Scientists have found that listening to music impairs rather than enhances certain types of creative thinking -- contrary to popular belief.

Popping on some tunes can make almost any task -- whether that's cleaning the bathroom, working in the office or driving home -- a little less arduous.

Heck -- the right soundtrack can even make it seem more enjoyable and make you more productive. Before you know it, that toilet's sparkling, those boring finance reports are done and hey presto you're home and hosed.

At least, that's what we all thought. According to a study published in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, listening to background music actually impairs certain types of creative thinking.

*record scratch*

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Researchers from Lancaster University and the University of Central Lancashire, both in the UK and the University of Gävle, Sweden busted the music myth with a series of experiments involving verbal insight problems known as CRATs (compound remote associate task).

A CRAT, for the uninitiated, involves showing a participant three words -- dress, dial, and flower for example -- and asking them to come up with a single associated word that can be combined with each word to make a common word or phrase. In this case, that'd be the word 'sun' as in sundress, sundial, and sunflower.

Participants in the study were asked to complete several CRATs in different environments -- some were quiet and others had one of three different types of music playing: background music with unfamiliar lyrics, instrumental music without lyrics or music with familiar lyrics.

The results showed that participants' performance was "significantly impaired" when they listened to music in comparison to quiet background conditions, according to the researchers.

“We found strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions,” Neil McLatchie, an author of the study from Lancaster University in the UK, said in a statement.

In the part of the experiment where the participants were exposed to music with familiar lyrics, it was evident that the music impaired their performance regardless of whether it induced a positive mood or whether the participants themselves were used to studying while listening to tunes.

"To conclude, 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 researchers wrote.

While the team did not test why this may be happening, they think it might be because music disrupts our verbal working memory, making it harder to complete some tasks.

Well, it looks like team 10 daily didn't get the no-music-while-working memo. The majority love to listen to tunes in the office -- they shared which songs get their creative juices flowing and which they skip.

Jess Lynch, 10 daily entertainment reporter

"I usually listen to Jimi Hendrix and other '60s music while working but I avoid party-ish type music and hip hop/rap because I end up just listening to the words. Anything high energy is distracting," she said.

Alex Anastassiou, 10 daily social media producer

"Classical music helps me concentrate."

Alex Bruce-Smith, 10 daily news reporter

"Spotify has these deep concentration playlists and they 100 percent work," she said.

"I love classical but also sometimes I find it affects my writing. Like if it's a big bombastic piece I start using all caps."

READ MORE: One Old Person’s Journey To Discovering New Music

Mat Whitehead, 10 daily senior entertainment reporter

"I love Spotify's classical or jazz playlists when I work."

Wade Shipard, 10 daily video team lead

Wade had a whole playlist to share:

  • Stokowski's arrangement of "Toccata & Fugue In D Minor" by Bach
  • Beethoven's 3rd, 6th, 7th and 9th Symphonies
  • "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi -- "Summer and Winter are the biggest bangers," he said
  • "Requiem" by Mozart
  • "Piano Concerto No. 3" by Beethoven
  • "SICKO MODE" by Travis Scott
  • "Mask Off" by Future
  • All albums by Lana Del Rey
Katherine Kalk, 10 daily views producer

"When I was in college anything by (Chinese-American cellist) Yo-Yo Ma did the trick."

Myles Davies, 10 daily video editor

"Swing and big band jazz ... Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole Trio -- early stuff not later pop-ier stuff -- Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Billie Holliday."

Feature image: Focus Features.