Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Does "Buzz" Stimulate Creativity?

Building on yesterday's post regarding introverts and creativity, I thought that I would share news regarding an interesting study about creative cognition.  Christopher Shea of the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend on a new research study by Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu, and Amar Cheema - forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research.   According to Shea,

"A moderate level of noise—the equivalent of the background buzz of conversation—prompts more-creative thought, according to a study.   More than 300 people worked on mental exercises, solving word-association puzzles and pondering practical problems (say, improving a mattress). At the same time, researchers played ambient noise recorded in a cafeteria, roadside, and at a construction site softly, moderately, or loudly, with the moderate level being about what you'd hear in a bustling cafe. People in the moderate-noise groups scored higher on the objective word-association test, and their answers to the other problems were rated, subjectively by peers, as more creative. The study adds to research suggesting that small doses of distraction prompt the mind to work at a more abstract—and creative—level."

Naturally, we need to be careful about drawing conclusions from these types of simple experimental studies.  However, the results do point to possible benefits for the type of collaborative spaces that Google, Pixar, and other firms have tried to create. These environments may be fertile not only because they bring people together, but perhaps because a bit of background noise might be stimulating. 

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