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Music: A Help or a Hindrance to Creative Thinking?

Fisher, Nina (2014) Music: A Help or a Hindrance to Creative Thinking? Edinburgh Napier University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Creative thinking is a highly useful skill on both an individual and a societal level (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999). The aim of this study is to provide understanding of what can help and what can hinder creative thinking. Many people choose to listen to music during study, while others do not (Etaugh & Ptasnik, 1982). Therefore, the current study investigates whether musical study preferences reflect performance, and if different thinking processes, often cited as important to creative thinking, are affected by music in the same manner. It was hypothesised that, music would affect performance on a convergent thinking (CT) task and a divergent thinking task (DT) differently. Furthermore, it was hypothesised that musical study preferences would produce contrasting effects of music on CT and DT. The study adopted a 2 (study preference: with music vs. no music) x2 (test condition: with music vs no music) x2 (performance: DT and CT) multivariate within-subjects experimental design. 38 participants (31 female, M = 22.5yrs, SD = 3.70) were opportunistically recruited via email from the Edinburgh Napier University participant pool and fourth year Psychology students. A three-way mixed factorial ANOVA could not support the two main hypotheses: background music did not produce differences in CT or DT and musical study preferences did not produce any main effect or interactions between CT and DT. Further analyses revealed that participants performed better in all tasks in their most preferred condition and participants successfully identified the most distracting condition to performance. The study indicates that DT and CT performance is enhanced in the most enjoyed condition: be it with or without music. This suggests that people benefit from environmental conditions, such as music, which they enjoy. This implies that people should be given more choice when it comes to work, study and exam conditions as this may produce enhanced performance in creative thinking in terms of CT and DT. Future research is recommended to validate the results and to consider other environmental factors which may enhance creative thinking.

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