By Meenu Johnkutty ’21
Innovative solutions are needed to solve the world’s most pressing problems and therefore; creativity is essential to the advancement of society. A recent study conducted by the Netherlands’ Radboud University, in collaboration with the University of Technology in Australia, shed light on how listening to happy music affects the formation of resourceful thoughts.
The 155 participants that took part in the study were given the simple task of listening to one of four different types of music: calm, sad, anxious, or happy. Subjects were subsequently asked to perform a variety of cognitive tasks – such as coming up with a fourth word to a group of three seemingly unrelated words or ranking kitchen items in terms of creativity and usefulness – that tested their “divergent” or “convergent” creative thinking. Those who scored higher in the area of convergent creative thinking came up with the best possible solutions to a task; these “best solutions” were predetermined based on expert input. On the other hand, those who scored higher in the area of divergent creative thinking created the most original and useful solutions, the standards for which had also been set by experts. The researchers found that participants who listened to happy music received higher scores in divergent creative thinking compared to those who listened to the other three types of music. In analyzing the results, researchers posited that the variables in the happy music condition may have enhanced flexibility in thinking of solutions to the presented problems.
This study of the relationship between type of music and creativity opens the door for novel ways to increase creative thinking in various educational and scientific settings without exorbitant price tags. Listening to happy music may indeed be the key to enhancing students’ learning experiences both in and out of the classroom.
- S. Ritter, S. Ferguson, Happy creativity: Listening to happy music facilitates divergent thinking. Public Library of Science (2017). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182210.
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