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Ambient Noise Spurs Creativity

Modest ambient noise - like that found in a coffee shop or cafe - triggers the part of our brain responsible for abstract and creative thinking

Photo: C Simmons

Ever feel like the creative juices flow more freely when working amidst the buzz of a coffee shop than in the oppressive silence of home? New research confirms this feeling, LifeHacker writes, by showing that modest ambient noise, like that found in a coffee shop or cafe, triggers the part of our brain responsible for abstract and creative thinking.

The researchers conducted five separate experiments to tease out how noise level influences thought. Compared to quiet (rustling leaves, whispering) and loud (garbage disposal, food blender) sounds, their subjects’ creativity flourished in mid-level environments. They found that around 70 decibels hits our productivity sweet spot. This modest level of background noise, they reasoned, creates enough of a distraction to encourage imaginative thinking.

Of course, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to work. One person’s coffee shop may be another person’s  construction site.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Noise Busters 
Preserving Silence in National Parks 

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