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Listening To Happy Music Makes You More Creative, New Study Suggests

*opens Spotify playlist*

07/09/2017 5:08 PM AEST | Updated 07/09/2017 5:08 PM AEST

The next time you sit down for a group brainstorm, you might want to ask your boss to consider switching on some upbeat tunes.

People come up with more original, creative solutions to problems when they're listening to 'happy' music, a study by researchers in Sydney and the Netherlands has found.

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It's good news for music-lovers.

And it doesn't only apply to writers, artists and other creative types -- anyone aiming to be more innovative in their study or work will benefit, say the authors.

"Creativity is the process of generating new ideas and being able to develop them into imaginative solutions," explained Dr Sam Ferguson, co-author of the study and Co-Director of the Creativity and Cognition Studios (CCS) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

"We found that listening to 'happy music' -- that is, classical music that is positive valence and high in arousal -- facilitates more divergent creative thinking compared to silence."

Dr Ferguson believes this is because the tunes improve the brain's flexible thinking, allowing them to come up with ideas that wouldn't have occurred to them in a sound vacuum.

In the study, 155 participants in the Netherlands were divided into five groups and asked to complete a series of tasks requiring different kinds of creativity. Four of the groups completed the tasks while listening to a piece of classical music, while the fifth 'control' group worked in silence.

The pieces of music had been assessed by previous research as being either 'happy' (eliciting positive emotions and high energy), 'calm' (positive, but low energy), 'sad' (eliciting negative emotions and low energy) or 'anxious' (negative and high energy).

One of the tasks asked participants to think of as many different and creative uses for a brick as they could.

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People come up with more creative solutions to problems if they're listening to happy music.

The group who were listening to the 'happy' music -- Antonio Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons' -- came up with more ideas, and their ideas were more creative and original, than those who brainstormed in silence.

However, cheerful tunes don't appear to help when it comes to more logic-based tasks, like problem-solving the solution to a problem.

To assess this 'convergent' kind of creative thinking, the participants completed tasks like having to select the most creative invention out of a list of ten, and to find a fourth word that connected three seemingly unassociated words -- for example, bar, glass and dress (the answer is 'cocktail').

For these tasks, the music-listeners didn't perform any better than those who worked in silence.

The findings of the research were published on Thursday in the peer-reviewed international journal, Plos One.

So there you have it. The next time you're stuck for ideas or really want to impress your boss with a new innovation, jump on Spotify and get the creative juices flowing.

And as to whether you can swap Italian classical composers for a bit of Taylor Swift or Beyoncé? Well, you'll have to try that out for yourself.

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