Michille: Ambient Noise and Creativity

background-1872802_1920I recently stumbled on an ambient noise website 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. 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 Beauty and the Beast
Ambient Mixer’s An evening at home with the great detective (Sherlock)
Ambient Mixer’s Loki’s Chambers (Does this sound like something your character would be hearing, Jeanne?)
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?

7 thoughts on “Michille: Ambient Noise and Creativity

  1. The ambient noise for the Loki in my story would probably be a whoopee cushion, but I went out to listen to the Ambient Mixer–very nice. I was fascinated by the way it’s set up to let you remove the bits you don’t like.

    • I’ve never tried the mixer. I just leave it the way it is. I like Mr. Tumnus’ house. And I also go to YouTube and listen to brain music. Today the brain music goes well with my Brain Happy Brahmi Ginkgo tea.

  2. I either have a space heater or a fan going in my office all the time, not for noise (although there is that benefit), but to keep me warm/cold. I wonder what the noise level is on my fan, because I seem to concentrate well when it’s on.

  3. Huh. I wonder if I should add some noise? My place is fairly quiet, although there’s some freeway traffic sound (about a block away), and now that I’m paying attention, a ticking clock….

    • Ticking clocks drive me berserk. Actually, any repetitive noise like that, especially clicky kinds of noise, drive me crazy. Maybe that’s why I like background music/sounds when I work because it blocks those annoying ticking sounds.

  4. This is so interesting! I often find it helpful to have some sort of noise (mid-level) to get me into the “flow” so to speak. Rain is a good noise, or industrial music. Once I’m in the flow, everything tends to melt around me, and it takes someone addressing me to jolt me out (and boy, I hate that). Or, of course, a natural dissipation of the flow where I slide out into the real world, and am done writing for a little while (five minutes or five months — hard to tell how long).

    It’s very interesting to see why I do that (-:.

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