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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.

2 Responses to “Coffee shop buzz is good for creativity, study finds”

  1. reblogged this on and commented: It may be that a variety of stimuli prompt the mind to make more diverse associations, which is at the heart of creativity. However, the choice of locations probably is important. A coffee shop, for instance, is a place where you’re not likely to be interrupted and where the distractions are fleeting (compared to a bar that has a ball game on the TV). It may also be the case that different phases of your creative process might respond to different conditions.

  2. markhoward02

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    It is so true that being at a coffee shop increases focus and productivity. I used to have an office but I would pass it up completely on my way in to go the coffee shop instead. There is just something about working in such am exotic place that I’ve always enjoyed. It is sort of tabo.

    I’ve been to some pretty empty coffee shops at times. I would have to say that during those times I have noticed a reduced level of productivity.

    I’ve mostly attributed this phenomenon to feeding off others productivity like it is contagious or something.