A team of researchers, led by Ravi Mehta at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tested the effects of varying levels of noise on participants’ creative thinking skills, proving that moderately loud background noise boosts creative thinking.
Specifically, they separated the participants into four groups and asked all four groups to complete a Remote Associates Test, a commonly used test of creative thinking that asks test-takers to find the relationship between a series of words that appear unrelated. Each of the groups was subjected to a different level of background noise (50 decibels, 70 decibels, 85 decibels, and total silence). When they scored each person’s test, the researchers found that those in the 70 decibel group, exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise, significantly out-performed those in the other three groups.
Inspired by the research, Justin Kaulzer created a free online app that plays a continuous loop of coffee shop noise.