Uplifting classical music that puts you in a good mood is the best to listen to if you need to get creative, a psychological study has found.

Creativity is one of the most valuable human traits for culture, science and technology. Scoring highly for creativity in childhood predicts lifetime achievements in inventing, designing and making things much more than IQ does.

But studies have shown that we are in the midst of a 'creativity crisis', with people's scores for creativity – or CQ – falling consistently, just as a comparable rise in IQ through the generations is happening.

One way that we can boost creativity in our daily lives could be listening to the right kind of music, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Creativity can be considered one of the key competencies for the 21st century. It provides us with the capacity to deal with the opportunities and challenge that are part of our complex and fast-changing world," the authors, led by Simone Ritter of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, write in the study.

But the role of music in stimulating creativity has remained relatively unexplored until now. A total of 155 study participants were divided into groups and listened to calm, happy, sad, anxious music, or no music at all. While they were doing so, they carried out tasks and solved puzzles that required creativity.

The ones listening to happy music scored the highest for divergent creativity – thinking up multiple interesting solutions to a problem. However, they didn't score more highly for convergent creativity, which involves weighing up the options and picking the most effective or appropriate solution.

It's thought that the happy classical music acted to increase the flexibility and fluency of the participants' thinking. Convergent creativity wasn't boosted by the music because it doesn't involve flexibility so much as choice of answers already collected through the divergent phase.

"Music listening may be useful to promote creative thinking in inexpensive and efficient ways in various scientific, educational and organisational settings when creative thinking is needed," the authors conclude.

Happy music
Listening to happy music can boost your creativity when you need it. Gonzalo Baeza