Noise. It has a negative connotation, doesn’t it? But researchers are slowly changing that. In fact, they’re finding that noise, rather than silence, is golden. Studies show that noise can actually be a powerful catalyst for creativity. But not all noise is equal. Some types of noise are downright distracting and others are ideal for creative tasks. So, what is the noisy sweet spot we should all be listening to?
This 2012 study from the Journal of Consumer Research, asked the simple question, “Is Noise Always Bad?” Turns out, ambient noise can positively influence creative thinking.
Study participants completed different exercises to track open-mindedness and the ability to create new ideas, all while listening to different soundtracks. The soundtracks were played at three different volume levels.
It wasn’t the lowest volume group who had the highest productivity. Instead, it was the midlevel noise group (70 decibels) who had the best scores. And the type of noise they heard was the sound of a noisy restaurant.
Why is this midlevel noise so great for creativity levels?
It seems that listening to noise at 70 decibels helps the right and left brain regions work in tandem.
For example, our analytical, left-sided brain likes to get super focused and detailed. This is something we call “convergent thinking.”
The right side of the brain is creative, non-linear and more intuitive. This is where “divergent thinking” takes place.
And sometimes, one of these sides takes over, making it more difficult to be come up with the best solution. This is what it’s like to feel stuck or have writer’s block.
But researchers find that midlevel noise (70 decibels) prevents the left or right side of the brain from taking over. Instead, it helps them work together.