I recently stumbled on an ambient noise website (Ambient Mixer) and found it helpful in my creative process. It blocked out the death rattle on our aging Advatium oven, the scritching and scratching of our highly allergic dog, and other aural distractions. I started to dig around for more sites that might have other ambient mixers that I could use and stumbled on a research study from 2012. Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition (Mehta, R., Zhu, R., & Cheema, A. (2012). Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(4), 784-799). I’ll start with the conclusion:
“Results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. A high level of noise (85 dB), on the other hand, hurts creativity. Process measures reveal that a moderate (vs. low) level of noise increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level [physiological distance] and thus promoting abstract processing, which subsequently leads to higher creativity. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of information processing and thus impairs creativity.”
In short, when people are thinking abstractly, they are less likely to fixate, and thus more creative. In case you’re wondering (I was), 50 dB is, say, a percolating coffee-maker. 60-70 dB is normal conversation at about three to five feet apart, or a normal piano practice, and heads into loud TV volume. 85 dB is equivalent to city traffic inside a car or a food blender. 20 dB is like the rustle of autumn leaves and 30 dB is like whispering. I would have thought 20 – 30 dB would be more conducive, but Mehta, Zhu, and Cheema found otherwise.
Here are some examples and another site to try:
- Ambient Mixer’s Studying at Hogwarts
- Ambient Mixer’s Belle’s Library (Beauty and the Beast)
- Ambient Mixer’s An evening at home with the great detective (Sherlock)
- Noisli – the website’s tag line is, “Improve focus and boost your productivity.”
Do you find abstract thinking versus fixation helps your creativity? What helps you be more creative?