Study: Natural Sounds Boost Employee Moods, Cognitive Ability

January 13, 2016

If your employer allows you to listen to music or wear headphones at work, consider swapping out your favorite band for natural sounds, such as flowing water or a thunderstorm.

According to research from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, listening to these kind of recordings could improve both your mood and cognitive abilities. In the study, researchers gave 12 participants a task that required close attention to detail. They then provided them with one of three different sound environments, producing either a consistent electronic noise (i.e., white noise), the sound of flowing water or no added sound.

"The mountain stream sound possessed enough randomness that it did not become a distraction," said Alana DeLoach, one of the researchers, in a statement.

Ultimately, researchers found that participants who had some form of background noise – be it electronic or natural – performed better than those with the standard soundscape – that is, without any background noise. However, most participants said they concentrated best with the sound of flowing water.

Not into the rhythm of a babbling brook? Try the ambient sounds of a café or university lunchroom through an app such as Coffitivity. After all, a 2012 study from the University of Chicago found that a moderate level of ambient noise can actually boost creativity.