Listening To 'Happy' Music May Boost Creativity, Study Says

Most people know intuitively that music can be a good way to pump yourself up or get the creative juices flowing — and a new study brings some scientific evidence to the connection.

It finds that people asked to listen to positive-sounding music had a measurable boost in creativity compared with people listening to other types of music.

The phenomenon might be a good one to keep in mind when you’re feeling blocked or in a creative cul-de-sac.

To test the role music may play, they had participants come into the lab and listen to one of four types of music.

The music had either a positive or negative valence, and was either high or low in arousal.

The participants heard their respective selections and then took tests to gauge their creativity, or divergent thinking—the ability to generate novel ideas and conjure up multiple solutions to a problem.

People who listened to happy music scored higher on the tests for divergent thinking, but not on convergent thinking. People listening to other types of music didn’t show the same difference.

The results aren’t entirely surprising, but why would the connection between happy, upbeat music and creativity exist, neurologically? The authors suggest that the music might affect flexibility of thought: One model of creativity, for instance, suggests that creativity comes from two traits—persistence and flexibility. And, they write, “situational variables can influence creativity either through their effects on persistence, on flexibility, or on both.”