Can Music Listening Inspire Creativity? An Investigation of the Psychological and Neural Correlates of Music-Induced Creative Incubation

Project: Research project

Project Details


Creativity has been previously linked to mind-wandering and emotion, respectively. Specifically, experiencing high levels of mind-wandering during an incubation period— a break from performing a task that requires creative effort— can augment creative insight and engage the brain’s default mode network (DMN). Moreover, although positive emotions have often been associated with creativity, some conflicting findings exist regarding negative emotions. While in recent years research has shown how music can be effectively employed to evoke a wide range of emotions as well as to stimulate the frequency and contents of mind-wandering (and more broadly mental imagery), the impact of music listening on creativity is currently unknown. This project will address this gap by elucidating the psychological and neural processes underlying music-induced creative incubation in two experiments using behavioral methods (Study 1) and fMRI (Study 2). Study 1 will determine whether a period of incubation characterised by music listening can improve, in the short-term, performance on two measures of creativity (Unusual Uses Task and Story Generation Task). Study 2 will further test whether the influence of music on creativity is due to the engagement of the DMN and will explore the functional role of its subsystems, interactions with other large-scale brain networks, and how they change over time. Three incubation conditions will be employed: two musical ones, in which mind-wandering and mental images will be triggered by unfamiliar music evoking positive (inspiring) and negative (tense) emotions with similar arousal, allowing us to determine whether positive emotions have a stronger impact on creativity than negative ones; and an auditory emotionally-neutral control condition, consisting of environmental sounds. Individual characteristics such as music liking and personality traits (mindfulness, imagination, openness to experience, and tendency to mind-wander spontaneously and deliberately), which have been previously suggested to impact creative ideation, will be also taken into account to further explore whether they mediate music’s effects on creative performance. The proposed project represents the first effort to address the relations between creativity and music-induced emotional and cognitive states, having crucial implications for the study of creativity and mind-wandering, as well as for music psychology research. Beyond academia, this project will have a profound impact on various individuals living in Hong Kong. For example, it will facilitate new creative practices among artists and creative talents, and support a goal-oriented use of music in daily life in music listeners.
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date1/01/2531/12/27


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