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Contrary to the belief that music enhances creativity, a new study has found that listening to music significantly weakens people’s ability to complete tasks requiring verbal creativity.
The study which was conducted by psychologists from the University of Central Lancashire, the University of Gävle in Sweden, and Lancaster University investigated the impact of background music and a quiet environment on people while solving verbal insight problems.
The researchers employed three experiments involving completing verbal insight tasks in a quiet environment or while exposed to background music with unfamiliar lyrics, instrument music without lyrics, and music with familiar lyrics.
“We found strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions,” Neil McLatchie, co-researcher for the study said.
According to scientists, results suggest that exposure to music disrupts verbal working memory regardless of whether the music induced a positive mood or was liked by the participants.
“To conclude, the findings here challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity and instead demonstrate that music, regardless of the presence of semantic content (no lyrics, familiar lyrics or unfamiliar lyrics), consistently disrupts creative performance in insight problem-solving.”
A paper on the study has been published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.