While ambient noise is omnipresent, our understanding of its impact on human cognition, particularly creative cognition, has been limited. Hence, in a recent project we examined the effect of ambient noise on consumers’ creativity and determined how and why background noise can affect creativity.
Our study results show that there is an inverted U relationship between noise and creativity. In other words, moderate level of noise helps. A moderate (vs. low) level of ambient noise induces distraction which then leads individuals to focus and think at a more abstract, broad level. The result is enhanced creativity. On the other hand, a high level of noise also induces distraction. But the distraction now is so much higher that it reduces an individual’s capacity to process information, thereby reducing creativity.
The bottom line is that people under moderate noise conditions generate more innovative ideas for a new product, come up with more innovative uses of an existing object, and solve a given problem more creatively. Very interestingly, we also find that people exposed to moderate levels of noise show higher willingness to buy new and innovative products.
Associate Professor of Business Administration