What can you do with a bottle and a hanger? Students with high cognitive flexibility give more ideas in the presence of ambient noise

Precious Mones, Jessica Massonnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Creativity has become a favourable skill to develop in higher education due to its value in society. Ambient noise during creative performance has traditionally been regarded as an environmental stressor and distractor, but recent findings suggest a positive impact of ambient noise on creative performance. It is still unclear what drives these inconsistent findings and whether individual differences between students explain the differential impact of noise on their performance. This study investigated the impact of ambient noise on divergent thinking performance in undergraduates during the COVID-19 pandemic, when common learning spaces were restricted and people were instructed to work from home. It also explored how cognitive flexibility (e.g., the ability to switch between different tasks and explore different strategies to problems) interacted with the impact of noise. Forty-two undergraduates completed an adult computer-based version of the Dimensional Change Card Sort task (DCCS) (a measure of cognitive flexibility) in silence, and the Alternative Uses Task (a measure of divergent thinking) in silence and in ambient noise displayed through headphones. On average, participants gave more ideas in the presence of ambient noise than in silence, but these ideas were not more original. Furthermore, the impact of noise interacted with cognitive flexibility. Participants who were more efficient at the DCCS (suggesting better cognitive flexibility) gave more ideas in noise. These findings can help to inform educational institutes and students on the influence the physical environment might have on divergent thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101116
Number of pages17
JournalThinking Skills and Creativity
Volume46
Early online date14 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Ambient noise
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • COVID-19

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