Too much or too little noise can erode creativity among consumers, something which both marketers and admen should take note of, says a new research.
Ambient noise turns out to be an important factor affecting creative cognition among consumers, says Ravi Mehta, professor of business administration, University of Illinois, who led the study.
"A moderate level of noise not only enhances creative problem-solving but also leads to a greater adoption of innovative products in certain settings," said Mehta.
Mehta and co-authors Rui (Juliet) Zhu and Amar Cheema from the Universities of British Columbia and Virginia, explore how a moderate-level of ambient noise (about 70 decibels, equivalent to a passenger car travelling on a highway) enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the likelihood of consumers purchasing innovative products.
Similarly, the researchers also studied how a high level of noise (85 decibels, equivalent to traffic noise on a major road) hurts creativity by reducing information processing, according to an Illinois statement.
"What we found is that there's an inverted-U relationship between noise level and creativity," Mehta said. "It turns out that around 70 decibels is the sweet spot. If you go beyond that, it's too loud, and the noise starts to negatively affect creativity."
Using background noise commonly found in consumers' lives, the researchers show that as noise increases so does one's level of distraction. "An increased level of distraction makes you think ‘out-of-the-box' -- what we call abstract thinking or abstract processing, which is a hallmark of increased creativity," Mehta said.
"But when you start to go beyond that moderate level of noise, what happens is that distraction becomes so huge that it really starts affecting the thought process. You really can't process information because the distraction is so pronounced. And that is what inhibits creativity," said Mehta.
"So a moderate level of noise produces just enough distraction to lead to higher creativity, but a very high level of noise induces too much distraction, which actually reduces the amount of processing, thus leading to lower creativity."
Mehta says the research is not only applicable to consumer research, but also to problem-solving in general.