In the journals
Listening to music can be relaxing, but it may interfere with your ability to create, suggests a study published online Feb. 2, 2019, by Applied Cognitive Psychology. Researchers recruited 30 people and tested their creativity through a series of exercises. Participants were shown three words at a time and then asked to add another word to create a new word or phrase. For example, "sun" could be joined to words like "dress," "dial," and "flower." The creativity exercises had three levels of difficulty: easy, moderate, and hard.
The group also did the exercises in different noise environments — silence; music with Spanish and English lyrics; instrumental music; and normal background library sounds like distant speech, typing, and paper rustling. They found that every kind of music significantly impaired the ability to complete the creativity tasks, while silence and library noises had no effect.
The researchers speculated that listening to music disrupted verbal working memory, which is the ability to remember information to complete a task. This was true even if people found the music enjoyable or relaxing.
Image: DaniloAndjus/Getty Images
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.