There’s no doubt that music has a direct influence on the way we think and feel. But did you know that our personalities are also intrinsically connected to the type of music we prefer?
As part of an ongoing effort to understand the psychology of music preference, a recent study found that empathetic personalities, those who are better at understanding the feelings of other people, prefer relaxing, romantic music; whereas people with personalities that are concentrated on the small details of things prefer technically complex music. The differences between these personalities is just as vast as the difference between soft rock or R&B and traditional jazz or metal. If you are on the fence about which personality you identify more with, take this quiz.
Scientists Have Discovered The Area Of The Brain That Responds To Music
It all comes down to making decisions based off empathy or logistical reasons, and how this personality trait affects your preference in music. Do you prefer to think with thoughts and emotions, or do you care more about rules and order? A group of psychologists at the University of Cambridge say that your preference in cognitive style is inextricably linked to your taste in music.
Dr. David Greenberg led the team in recruiting over 4,000 participants and asking them detailed questions about their habits of thinking, then inquiring about their musical preferences by using fifty diverse musical excerpts to help determine their links.
The group was sectioned into “Empathizers” (E), “Systemizer” (S), and “Balanced” (B). The graph below shows that the more positive the score, the greater the preference of music. Greenberg et. al/PLOS ONE.
As you can see from the graph, empathizers tend to prefer mellow, sophisticated music with emotional depth, such as “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones; whereas the logic-oriented “systemizers” tended to prefer intense, manic music, like the “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols, choosing heavy rock and classical, complicated tracks.
The results reveal that empathizers prefer the rush of emotions, whether positive or negative, that are associated with certain types of music; and systemizers prefer analyzing the technicalities of a composition. “It’s almost like a musical puzzle that they’re putting together,” Greenberg explained to CNN. It’s also possible to have a mixed personality, in which case you have “balanced” musical preference.
While personality type influences preference of music, the psychologists go on to suggest that preference in music, too, can influence a personality type to change. They suggest future research might be able to help prove that those lacking in empathy could potentially improve their empathy quotient by listening to more emotionally-charged music. It’s worth giving it a try, perhaps, by starting with this Jeff Buckley track:
An accompanying study examining personality and its association with musical sophistication, reveals that someone’s “openness to experiences,” strongly affects the level of musical sophistication of a person. This particular trait, which is one of the Big Five personality traits identified by psychologists, is affected the most. Sophistication, in this case, “means the ability to deconstruct, remember, and perform musically.” This connection reveals that, “Those who are imaginative, have multiple diverse interests, and are open to change have greater levels of musical sophistication than those who are more conventional and routine-oriented.”
Science Confirms That People Who Play Music Are Smarter Than Others [Watch]
This applies whether you are a practicing musician or not, meaning you could be a talented musician without even knowing it. Our advice? Pick up an instrument, and find out for yourself! You never know what you can do unless you try. We also recommend incorporating the practice of an instrument at a young age, so be sure to include music in the lives of your children too!