Tag Archives: creativity and noise

When Feeling Creative–Find Some Noise

Silence, or a relatively quiet place, may be good for reading a book, but if you are writing that book it seems you need to find someplace “noisy.”

So says a recent study conducted by Ravi Mehta and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana, that tested the relationship between noise and creativity.

The study found that a moderate amount of ambient noise actually improved creativity. This seems to give credence to writers, like Ernest Hemingway, who went to cafes and bars to do their writing.

The purpose of working around background noise seems to be to break through your normal way of thinking in order to enhance abstract, or creative, thinking. In other words, get out of your comfort zone and into a state of moderate mental disruption.

Apparently, if you could chart creativity vs. noise on a bell-shaped curve, the apex of the curve would be at around 70 decibels. Lower than that is less effective, and higher is too distracting.

Today, a very popular spot for creativity is the local coffee house. There seems to be just enough ambient noise there for the proper creative stimulus. Of course, the caffeine probably doesn’t hurt either.

The study does have one caveat: The concept of moderate noise increasing creativity may only work well on people who are naturally creative anyway. Hmmmm.

Where do you do your most creative work, and what is the ambient noise level while you are being creative?

You can read the entire study at the Journal of Consumer Research.