Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence from Compound Remote Associate Tasks

Threadgold, Emma orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9073-0669, Marsh, John Everett orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9494-1287, McLatchie, Neil and Ball, Linden orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5099-0124 (2019) Background Music Stints Creativity: Evidence from Compound Remote Associate Tasks. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 33 (5). pp. 873-888. ISSN 0888-4080

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Background music has been claimed to enhance people’s creativity (Ritter & Ferguson, 2017). In three experiments we investigated the impact of background music on performance of Compound Remote Associate Tasks (CRATs), which are widely thought to tap creativity. Background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics (Experiment 1), instrumental music without lyrics (Experiment 2), and music with familiar lyrics (Experiment 3) all significantly impaired CRAT performance in comparison to quiet background conditions. Furthermore, Experiment 3 demonstrated that background music impaired CRAT performance regardless of whether the music induced a positive mood or whether participants typically studied in the presence of music. The findings challenge the view that background music enhances creativity, and are discussed in terms of an auditory distraction account (interference-by-process; Jones & Tremblay, 2000) and the processing disfluency account (Mehta et al., 2012).

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