The conventional wisdom forever has been to fill your ears with some calm classical music to focus and get a creativity boost. But the latest science suggests that the happier the tune, the better the buzz of ingenuity.
A study published earlier this month found that listening to happy music seems to lead to more and more innovative solutions over just listening to silence.
The findings seem to parallel earlier research that used MRIs to see how participants' brains react to music they like. Those experiments showed that peoples' brains lit up more in response to tracks they enjoyed.
Researchers from Australia and The Netherlands had different groups of volunteers listen to music categorized as calm, happy, sad, or anxious while performing tasks to test creative thinking. Another control group performed the tasks while listening to silence.
Listening to classical music considered happy (as defined by positive valence and that is high in arousal) facilitated more divergent creative thinking over the control group that worked in silence.
It would seem to stand to reason that if a participant categorized a particular song as "happy" that it might also be a song the participant likes. In other words, both studies may be seeing the same effect from music that is either happy or liked.
Authors Simone Ritter from Radboud University and Sam Ferguson from the University of Technology in Sydney think the happier tunes might lead to more flexibility in thinking and additional solutions to be considered.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Next up, further research could look at how different ambient sounds affect creativity. We could soon be listening to a laugh track backed by uplifting classical music to solve all our problems.