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For many of us in academia and medical education, we accomplish a tremendous amount of work outside of the workplace. This can be in our home office, on the public transit system, or in the library.

Interestingly, creative cognition occurs best with a moderate amount of ambient noise (not too much and not too little), according to a 2012 article from Journal of Consumer Research.

Abstract: This paper examines how ambient noise, an important environmental variable, can affect creativity. 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.

Trick of the Trade

Add moderate ambient noise by using Coffitivity website

Plug your earphones on and listen to ambient noise from a virtual coffee shop. I used this all day yesterday, answered tons of emails, and even wrote this post. It’s worth a try for those you trying to boost your creative and productive energy. Let me know what you think.

Caveat #1: You need internet access.

Caveat #2: Don’t use the site if you are doing internet shopping — “increases the buying likelihood of innovative products”

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD