Coffee shop buzz is good for creativity, study finds

Last week we covered the predictions of one (possibly caffeine addled) futurist who claims that not only will we trade our offices for coffee shops in the years to come, but universities and retail stores will come to resemble coffee shops as well. That might alarm those who aren’t fans of a good cup of joe, but it might also be unwelcome news to those who like to work in seclusion. Won’t all this time in buzzing public spaces disrupt the visionary thinkers among us who chase eureka moments in quiet solitude?

Not according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. To investigate the link between creativity and noise levels, researchers asked 300 participants to complete mental exercises like word association games and dreaming up as many ways as possible to use a brick while in environments that were either totally silent, moderately buzzing or straight up loud.

The results show that those who worked in moderately noisy environments with sound levels on par with your average bustling cafe (about 70 decibels) scored higher on these tests of creativity and were also rated as more innovative by other participants. The WSJ Ideas Market blog sums up the findings:

The study adds to research suggesting that small doses of distraction — including hard-to-read fonts — prompt the mind to work at a more abstract level, which is also a more creative level. (The possibility that sound energized people was considered but rejected: Participants’ heart rates did rise when they first encountered noise, but soon subsided.)  The effect of noise is inverted-U-shaped, this study suggested: There’s a sweet spot between silence and din.

That’s good news if we’re soon to be doing everything from studying to buying socks in a coffee-shop-like environment.

Do you find you’re more creative in a moderately noisy, buzzing environment?

Image courtesy of Flickr user LOLren.