Improve creativity by working in a coffee shop

There seems to be an endless search for how to be more productive and creative in a shorter amount of time. Books, websites, and seminars preach all different techniques to accomplish more with less.  The company Coffitivity is trying to do just that, but in a unique way.  Coffitivity argues that the mix of calm and commotion in an environment of a coffee shop is the perfect amount of noise to optimize your creative talent. Thus, they’ve created a website where you can listen to the sounds of a coffee shop, from wherever you are working. They suggest having Coffitivity’s soundtrack play in the background and turning on your music just higher than the noise of the coffee shop sounds.  Their premise that a certain level of noise boosts creativity comes from a paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research (Mehta, Zhu, & Cheena, 2012). In the first of five experiments, the researchers had 65 undergrads perform a commonly used creativity task called the Remote Associates Test (RAT) where participants are given three words (e.g. shelf, read, end), and they have to determine the way in which the words are connect by identifying a target work (e.g. book). Each participant was randomly assigned to one of four noise conditions ranging from no noise to high noise (~85 dB).  The noise they used was consumer environment noise, like what would be heard at a coffee shop, rather than the typical white noise used in previous research. As hypothesized, the moderate-noise condition generated more correct answers on the RAT than the other three noise conditions. The authors hypothesize several mechanisms by which moderate noise may lead to creativity. The primary idea is that “the distraction caused by a moderate (vs. low ) level of noise will induce processing difficulty, leading to abstract processing and, consequently, to greater creativity.” Although one study doesn’t mean the evidence is conclusive, I am definitely going to try out Coffitivity and see if it helps me work on my dissertation!