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Surprising Science

Ambient Coffee Shop Chatter Boosts Creativity

If you can't make it out to a cafe, a new website allows you to bring the bustling energy directly to your computer. The site is called Coffitivity. It's free and plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack.

What’s the Latest Development?

If you’re doing creative work, you may find more inspiration in the hum of a busy coffee shop than in silence, say researchers. And if you can’t make it out to a cafe, a new website allows you to bring the bustling caffeinated energy directly to your computer. The site is called Coffitivity. It’s free and plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack. Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have found that “a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Extreme quiet does increase concentration, but to a level that makes abstract and broad thinking–the kind that can generate a creative solution–more difficult. But moderate levels can distract people just enough so that they think more broadly. “It helps you think outside the box,” said Dr. Ravi Mehta, who led the recent experiment in ambient noise. “The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.”

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Read it at the New York Times

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