This study aimed to analyze the effect that binaural beats have on human creativity. The study defined binaural beats as an auditory illusion and form of cognitive entertainment that operates by stimulating neuronal phase locking. This auditory illusion occurs when a tone of a certain frequency is played in one ear, while another tone of a slightly different frequency is played in the person's other ear. Instead of hearing two separate tones, the person will hear one fluctuating tone, or a beat. For example, if a tone of 335 HZ is played in the right ear and a tone of 345 HZ is played in the left ear, then this results in perceived binaural beat of 10 Hz. In this study, binaural beats with an alpha condition and a gamma condition are used.
Past research has linked dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to human creativity. In addition, binaural beats are thought to affect dopamine-driven processes. Therefore, this study hypothesized that binaural beats can influence human creativity, and uses the variables of divergent thinking and convergent thinking to test this hypothesis. This is due to findings that both divergent and convergent thinking are two main processes in human creativity.
The participants in this study consisted of 24 first-year students at Leiden University. Each participant took part in three separate sessions. The three sessions consisted of the participants listening to an alpha condition of 10 HZ binaural beats, a gamma condition of 40 HZ binaural beats, and a control condition of a constant tone of 340 HZ. Before and during each session, the participants' dopamine levels were tested through their eye-blink rate (EBR). During each session, the participants completed tasks involving divergent thinking and convergent thinking.
For the divergent thinking task, participants completed an Alternate Uses Task (AUT). The AUT presented participants with six items: a brick, shoe, paper, pen, bottle, and towel. The purpose of the AUT was for participants to then list alternate uses for each item. The answers were scored on four components, originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration, in order to determine creativity. Participants were given 10 minutes to solve two items per session.
The convergent thinking task was a Remote Associations Task (RAT). The RAT presented participants with three unrelated words for which they had to find a single compound word that could be associated with each word. For example, the words "market", "star", and "hero" are all associated with the compound word "super", as in "supermarket", "superstar", and "superhero". Participants were given 4 minutes to solve 10 items per session.
Finally, the participants' moods were assessed before and after each session using a Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Mood State Questionnaire (PANAS-S). This is because the study assumed that positive mood influences divergent and convergent thinking.
A repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to measure the differences in EBR during each session, and found that there were no differences. In other words, the alpha, gamma, and control conditions did not have different effects on the participant's EBRs. Additionally, the study found that the effects of binaural beats on both divergent and convergent thinking were not statistically significant. However, the study found that participants with lower baseline EBRs (20 blinks per minute or lower) revealed beat-induced benefits in divergent thinking. The enhancements in divergent thinking especially related to the task's flexibility component. On the other hand, binaural beats impaired divergent thinking in participants with higher baseline EBRs (20 blinks per minute or higher). The study determined that mood did not affect the difference in divergent thinking performances for participants with lower baseline EBRs.
The study concluded that binaural beats trigger dopamine, but instead support neuronal phase locking in general. The study also stated that binaural beats do not represent a comprehensive tool for cognitive enhancement, such as creativity, as it relies on the individual's dopamine levels (indicated by the individual's baseline EBR).
The sample for this study was not very diverse as the participants consisted of 24 college students between the ages of 17 and 25 years-old who were mostly female (22 females; 2 males). It would be interesting to see if the results of the study would differentiate with a larger and more diverse group of participants. There were also many components in the study that were being analyzed, making it difficult to determine the significance of the study's findings. For example, it is confusing that the study found that binaural beats did not cause any differences in the EBRs between each session, and yet binaural beats influenced the divergent thinking performances for participants with lower baseline EBRs.
Reedijk, S. A, Bolders, A., & Hommel, B. (2013). The impact of binaural beats on creativity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7(786). doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786. Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00786/full