Science: Hanging in coffee shops all day is good for you

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Atlas Cafe in Williamsburg, never for a lack of MacBooks. Photo via NYT.

The next time someone tries to give you guff for spending all your supposed-to-be productive hours in your neighborhood coffee shop, throw this study down on the table and scream “Science, bitches!” (before politely asking them to leave so you can return to doing your work, of course). Some researchers wanted to find out whether ambient noise, such as your coffee shop chatter, can actually help productivity. The conclusion? “The next time you’re stumped on a creative challenge, head to a bustling coffee shop, not the library.”

Basically, they found ambient noise triggers the brain to think abstractly and generate more creative stuff, which this coffee-shop dwelling reporter totally agrees with. But the actual reason: it’s a lot harder to dick around on Facebook for hours in a coffee shop when you’re trying to impress that cute graphic designer on her MacBook Pro across the room.

That’s not all of it, of course: This whole study makes perfect sense, when you think about it. Spend too much time at home at your bedroom desk and your brain gets antsy and starts to eat itself, all that rote sameness of staring at the same wall and same computer screen over and over again. Going out to a coffee shop is an easy way to feel like you’re tapped in to a broader creative community, even if we’re all in there working on vastly different projects. You see people tapping away at a screenplay to your left, a video project to your right and something strange involving hand-drawn sketches of David Cross in front of you and you realize that just because you’re not confined to an office doesn’t mean you’re not alone.

Remember the Times’ trope of “Laptopistan” from a few years ago? Now you can brag about your Laptopistan citizenship with high honors, knowing you’ve actually been productive this whole time.

The study also said: “[I]nstead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one’s comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.”

Do you think this is true?

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  1. Laptopistan has declared war on the Kindledom of iPadua.

    Kidding aside, if I’m stumped I get up and go outside for 15 minutes. Even just standing and looking at traffic does things to get the brain back on track. But if I’m focused on something I prefer relative quiet and dislike the noise of a coffee shop.

  2. The author hasn’t been in a library lately, have they? Libraries are no longer zones of “shhh” – they have their own coffee, bustling noise and all the resources one could need.

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