In a recent University of Cambridge study published in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of psychologists have shown that ones thinking style – whether you are an ‘empathizer’ (those who likes to focus on and respond to the emotions of others), or a ‘systemizer’ (those who like to analyse rules and patterns) —is an accurate predictor of ones musical tastes.
Generally, empathetic people seem to prefer the mellower side of the spectrum, which includes R&B and soft rock and (what the report described as) “unpretentious”(!) music like folk, and contemporary music (which includes dance music). Empathetic people also gravitate toward reflective, sad or depressing songs, as well as those with certain depth of emotion.
Songs high on empathy
– Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
– Come away with me – Norah Jones
– All of me – Billie Holliday
– Crazy little thing called love – Queen
The other end of the spectrum, the systemizers, were particularly drawn toward heavy metal, punk and other music with high energy, complexity and cerebral depth.
Songs high on systemizing
– Concerto in C – Antonio Vivaldi
– Etude Opus 65 No 3 — Alexander Scriabin
– God save the Queen – The Sex Pistols
– Enter Sandman – Metallica
The researchers, which included PhD student and trained jazz saxophonist David Greenberg, who led the study, conducted multiple studies with over 4,000 participants, recruited mainly through Facebook’s MyPersonality app, which asked users to take a selection of psychology-based questionnaires, the results of which they could place on their profiles. At a later date, users were asked to listen and rate 50 musical pieces. The researchers used library examples of musical stimuli from 26 genres and subgenres, to minimise the chances that participants would have any personal or cultural association with the piece of music.
Greenberg was quick to note how the results of the study can affect the multi-billion dollar streaming industry, “A lot of money is put into algorithms to choose what music you may want to listen to, for example on Spotify and Apple Music. By knowing an individual’s thinking style, such services might in future be able to fine tune their music recommendations to an individual.”
Thinking in a more non-commodifiable sense Jason Rentfrow, the study’s senior author, says, “This line of research highlights how music is a mirror of the self. Music is an expression of who we are emotionally, socially, and cognitively.”
Though not the official study method, you can find an interesting online questionnaire that highlights your own musical tastes here. See what your musical tastes have to say about your own personality.
Source: The Independent