Creative Space

A Cornell experiment in the 1960s polled a group of computer science students and divded them into those who liked to work with music in the background and those who didn't. They put 1/2 of each group together in a silent room, and the other 1/2 in a different room equipped with headphones and a musical selection. To no one's surprise, they performed about the same in speed and accuracy of completing a Fortran programming task. The part of the brain required for arithmetic and related logic is unbothered by music which is handled by another brain centre.

There was a hidden wildcard. The specification required an output data stream be formed through a series of manipulations on numbers in the input data stream. Although unspecified, the net effect of all the operations was that each output number was equal to its input number. Of those students who figured this out, the overwhelming majority came from the quiet room. Not all work is centred around the same left part of the brain. There are occasional breakthoughs that may save months or years or work involving right-brain function. The creative penalty exacted by the environment is insidious since it is an occasional occurence anyway. The effect of reduced creativity is cumulative over a long period. The organization is less effective, people grind out the work unenthusiastically, and the best people leave.


Experiment shows that listening to music while you program can prevent deep logical insights.

Folksonomies: cognition thinking productivity

/technology and computing/programming languages (0.577228)
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Logic (0.988952): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mathematics (0.909444): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
English-language films (0.899320): dbpedia
Output (0.875317): dbpedia | freebase
Fortran (0.743110): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Programming language (0.684373): dbpedia | freebase
Brain (0.673999): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Creativity (0.667501): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  DeMarco, Tom and Lister, Timothy R. (1999), Peopleware, Dorset House, Retrieved on 2013-06-13
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: computer science productivity