Sound therapy is a popular way to relax and reduce stress. But now you can use the power of music to be more creative.
Researchers at Radboud University split subjects into five groups, with each group randomly assigned to listen to one of four pieces of music — or sit in silence — before and during creativity tasks.
The music pieces were chosen for their “mood and arousal” levels:
- The Swan by Saint-Saens was considered to be positive in mood but low in arousal level; in short, it’s “calming.”
- The Planets: Mars, The Bringer of War by Gustav Holst was considered to be negative and arousing. Think “anxious.” (Also consider it “hard to listen to,” at least to me.)
- Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber was considered to be sad and slow. (Correctly so.)
- The Four Seasons: Spring by Vivaldi was considered to be upbeat and happy.
The creativity task focused on divergent thinking, a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.
Divergent thinking means coming up with a number of new answers to a problem. As the authors of the study say, “Divergent thinking is key to today’s scientific, technological, and cultural fields because innovation often pairs disparate ideas.”
Think of it this way: Convergent thinking is math; divergent thinking is the iPod.
So which group produced the most — and the best — answers to the creativity test?
Those who listened to Vivaldi, the upbeat, happy music. It inspired higher levels of “fluency and flexibility,” a mindset that lays the perfect foundation for those moments when we need to come up with unique ideas.
Play it for a few seconds. You’ll recognize it.
Interestingly, though, researchers found that it did not matter whether subjects recognized any of the music, or even whether they liked it.
Try it. Next time you need to come up with new ideas, listen to this Vivaldi piece for 15 or 20 seconds. Or leave it on in the background.
You may climb right out of that creative rut.