We all like to control our creative space. If you’re like me, that means shutting out all distractions. Still, there’s something special about a rainy day that brings out the best in my work.
Is there something to this, or is it nothing more than a trick of the mind?
As it turns out, there is a scientific basis for this phenomenon, and it’s not exclusive to rain. Some of us prefer to find it in a coffee shop, or a public park.
When I say ‘it’, I’m referring to ambient noise.
A study published by The Journal of Consumer Research declared that ambient noise – at a particular volume – had a profound influence on increasing creative production.
“Results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. A high level of noise (85 dB), on the other hand, hurts creativity. Process measures reveal that a moderate (vs. low) level of noise increases processing difficulty, inducing a higher construal level and thus promoting abstract processing, which subsequently leads to higher creativity. A high level of noise, however, reduces the extent of information processing and thus impairs creativity.” (Ravi, M, Rui, Z, Cheema, A, 2013. Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Journal of Consumer Research, Issue 39 / Number 4, 784-799.)
Simply put, if you want to boost your creative output, you ideally want to be working in an environment with 70dB of background noise.
Of course, you can’t control the weather, and even if you could, you can’t determine how loud it will be.
Fortunately, there are some fantastic apps that will simulate your preferred scenarios.
Some, like the Rain, Rain, Sleep app, were designed to help aid in a good night’s sleep, but can be used for our very purpose. It allows you to mix sounds in order to create a soundscape that suits you best, and is entirely free. Change the volume to your desired level, or ensure it’s correct to the decibel with apps like Decibel 10th.
For those of us who prefer the coffee shop, Coffitivity is the site for you. “The concept is simple: this site endlessly loops the white noise of people indiscernibly chatting and cups clanking at 40% volume, while you set your own background music at 60% volume. The result is a perfect mix of environmental stimuli that keeps you focused and productive,” says TIME Magazine.
If you want more, there are websites like focus@will where you can pay for a vast array of options, or a simple white-noise generator might be more your style.
Business owners should also take note. “…in this case we used everyday multi-talker noise to find out how it affects consumer behaviour in a consumption environment. In order to encourage adoption of new and innovative products, marketers might consider equipping their showrooms with a moderate level of ambient noise,” suggests lead researcher Ravi Mehta of the University of Illinois.
Whatever the use, it’s rare you’ll find me working on my craft without my rain app running in the corner from this day forward.