Study Shows Coffee Shops Foster Creativity Through Ambient Noise

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Coffee Shops Foster Creativity

via Lifehacker:

A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that writing in a public place--like a coffee shop--is good for getting your creative juices flowing. Because it's loud. 

More than 300 people were included in the study, which showed that those who had ambient noise in the background (70 decibels, on par with a Starbucks) scored higher in objective word-association tests. In addition, their answers were deemed more creative by other participants.

Personally, I'm not a fan of writing in public places--it's too much of a personal process, and I don't want people staring at me while I do it (though editing is a different story). And I've always thought people who wrote in coffee shops were more concerned with being perceived as a writer, than with getting any real writing done. 

But, hey, apparently it works. 

What do you folks think? Do you like writing in public? Or does the very thought terrify you? 

Rob Hart

News by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the associate publisher for MysteriousPress.com. He's the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, ThuglitCrime Factory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. His debut novel, New Yorked, will be published by Polis Books in June 2015. He lives in New York City, and you can find his website at www.robwhart.com.

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Kirk's picture
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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun March 6, 2012 - 3:46pm

I listen to podcasts and music all day long. Music in particular is helpful to get me in the zone when coding, so it makes sense to me.

docawesome's picture
docawesome from Dallas is reading Texas by James Michener March 6, 2012 - 4:31pm

I love listening to music as write, but can't hack public places. I end up listening in to conversations instead of writing.

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on March 6, 2012 - 4:42pm

I can write on a train ride, but I've never tried to write at a coffee shop or any other public place.

JamieMarriage's picture
JamieMarriage from Sydney, Australia is reading Spider, Spin Me a Web - Lawrence Block March 6, 2012 - 5:13pm

So all those people that have been a living joke to writers by sitting in starbucks with their Apple computers pretending to write were actually writing? I am honestly shocked.

I can understand the link though; the more activity around you (music/people/etc) the more active your brain is.

I've a couple of 'Music to write to' playlists set up for when I really want to get into it, so I can accept the study from my perspective.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks March 6, 2012 - 5:21pm

hey, that's wicker park, my old stomping grounds here in chicago. 

Jessica Martin Tatar's picture
Jessica Martin Tatar March 6, 2012 - 5:29pm

I love that there's a study that finally confirms my assumptions! There are two types of environments I can write or study in- either one like a coffee shop with a lot of noise, people, and suffling around, or absolute, complete and utter silence... the former is obviously easier to find, so I usually end up there. I should specify though, I can't stand just listening to music; I can't focus at all. But if it's coupled with people and espresso machines, then right on.

Finding my own little corner in a coffee shop and being able to sit down there and just focus on my writing or whatever else I'm doing with everything going on around me is the best.

Dorian Grey's picture
Dorian Grey from Transexual, Transylvania is reading "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck March 6, 2012 - 6:43pm

The only experience with writing amidst noise and chaos was working on a novel backstage during a high school play; all other writing I do is when I hole myself up in my room. But I'd definitely love to sit down and relax at a Starbucks with my laptop and type the day away.

Deets999's picture
Deets999 from Connecticut is reading Gravitys Rainbow March 6, 2012 - 11:00pm

I only write in public, whether it's a McDonalds, coffee shop, library, etc. Nothing to do with vanity, trust me, people could care less what you are scribbling down in your notebook - I just don't like being cooped up in my house anymore than I need to be - though noise-canceling headphones are a must! And I do agree that it helps the creative process - you got to take the good with the bad when writing in public spots!

Viktor Bergstrom Bennhagen's picture
Viktor Bergstro... March 7, 2012 - 12:31am

I think Jessica is spot on. Works the same way for me. Another thing about sitting in cafes is that you can observe people and what they're doing and use it to get the ball rolling.

J.S. Wright's picture
J.S. Wright from Milwaukee is reading Black Spring March 7, 2012 - 7:22pm

Sure, there are a lot of fakers out there that like to be percieved as creative types, I see them all the time when I feel the urge to lounge around and write in a coffee shop.  But there's also a lot of legit writers that go there because those places have comfy chairs, relaxing atmosphere, plenty of people-watching opportunities, muffins-a-plenty... and good coffee on tap.  Literally.

Though, in my opinion, the music usually sucks.  

Ray Richards's picture
Ray Richards from Michigan and Iowa is reading The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson March 8, 2012 - 4:18am

I like it but it doesn't feel like real work. I have a notebook but it is so much slush and personal garbage that it is kind of tough for me to wade through. It is far away from my haughty Internet and the distractions of games, social demands, and media.
There is also a level peer pressure to focus, like in a school study hall. If you feel watched you can trick yourself into sticking to task better. It is cheaper to just learn self control.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Lexington, Kentucky is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated March 9, 2012 - 3:16am

I prefer some place with people around, but not anyone who can really seem or I have to interact with. 2nd floor at a library when folks are down stairs something like that.