Open floor office planning is commonly used to improve socialization and employee relationships. However, this socialization and common noises (e.g., discussions) can distract people during work, which leads to them using entertainment media like music to limit distractions. Specifically, people listen to music via headphones to focus and hide from their surroundings. Knowing of such media use at work, academics questioned how it affects cognitive tasks (i.e., processing and remembering information). One of such tasks is creativity, understood as developing new and valuable ideas. Creative ideas can enhance innovation, thus increasing companies’ market competitiveness. Hence, creativity is often encouraged to keep up with the constantly changing industries. Previous research shows that music genres have different effects on cognitive tasks. One of the oldest and most researched music genres is classical music, while popular modern music genres, such as dance/electronic/house music remains underresearched. Both genres have similarities as they have limited to no lyrics and are composed using musical variations. This led to the research question: What is the difference in the effects of background music on creativity in the work environment between classical and dance/electronic/house music genres? A quasi-experiment was conducted in a Dutch company on a sample of 66 people, measuring creativity and external factors based on music stimuli and a survey. Statistical analysis was used to analyze the results. The results showed that people indeed use personal media to limit distractions. Yet, the experiment resulted in no background music effects on participants’ creativity in work environments. Though the research did not produce significant results, the lack of difference between music genres’ effects indicates that people perform similarly when exposed to either of the music genres. Still, when preferred music differed from the listened one, participants tended to score worse on creativity. Thus, music preferences were identified as one of the external factors influencing the relationship between music and creativity, alongside the personality trait agreeableness. All in all, the key conclusion of this research is that people use entertainment media in their lives, but this media use is personal and may differ based on some of the external factors. As this thesis presents new findings, it is concluded that not everything is known about background music’s effects on creativity, requiring further research.

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Prof. dr. Jeroen Jansz
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Polina Kuzmina. (2022, June 27). “Headphones are the new wall:” Background music and creativity in the workplace. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from