If goofing off at the office makes people happy, it may result in more innovative thinking. That is one of the implications of a new study that suggests upbeat work environments can improve creativity.
The work settings can put people in a good mood so they can then think more creatively.
“Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem-solving and flexible yet careful thinking,” said Ruby Nadler, a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario. She and colleagues Rahel Rabi, also a grad student, and Dr. John Paul Minda carried out the study published in the journal Psychological Science.
For this study, Nadler and her colleagues looked at a particular kind of learning that is improved by creative thinking.
Students who took part in the study were nudged into different moods and then given a category learning task to do (learning to classify sets of pictures with visually complex patterns). The researchers manipulated mood with help from music clips and video clips; first, they tried several out to find out what made people happiest and saddest.
The happiest music was a peppy Mozart piece, and the happiest video was of a laughing baby.
The researchers then used these in the experiment, along with sad music and video (a piece of music from the movie “Schindler’s List” and a news report about an earthquake) and a piece of music and a video that didn’t affect mood. After listening to the music and watching the video, people had to try to learn to recognize a pattern.
Happy volunteers were better at learning a rule to classify the patterns than sad or neutral volunteers.
“If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you to do that,” Nadler said.
And music is an easy way to get into a good mood. Everyone has a different type of music that works for them—don’t feel like you have to switch to Mozart, she said.
Nadler also thinks this may be a reason why people like to watch funny videos at work. “I think people are unconsciously trying to put themselves in a positive mood”—so that apparent time-wasting may actually be good news for employers.