The Coffee Shop Effect: Investigating the Relationship between Ambient Noise and Cognitive Flexibility

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Nielsen, Emily G
Ambient Noise; Creativity; Cognitive Flexibility; Category Learning; Individual Differences; COVIS Theory; Cognitive Psychology
article description
Cognitive flexibility is the ability to think diversely in order to solve problems and learn concepts. It has also been suggested that cognitive flexibility supports creativity. Research has demonstrated that creativity is enhanced by moderate volumes of ambient noise. This thesis sought to replicate and extend this line of research by investigating how noise affects cognitive flexibility. Study 1 assessed the effects of noise on three creativity tasks. Performance was found to be enhanced by ambient noise, particularly among those who listen to music while they study/work. Study 2 examined how noise affects performance on a category learning task designed to measure cognitive flexibility. Category learning was neither enhanced nor impaired by ambient noise. This work suggests that noise may be beneficial for creativity but not for learning. Further research is needed to clarify the effect that ambient noise has on cognitive flexibility as it applies to other, non-learning-based tasks.