For most of us, music is a part of our daily lives. Even if you do not intentionally put some music on, a family member or roommate may do it for you, or you might visit a store that’s playing background music. Whatever the case, we all have our musical preferences – there’s music that we absolutely love and music that we can’t stand.

jilian's playlist
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Why does some music bring us to tears while other pieces make us dance? Why is it that the music that we like can make others agitated? And why do some people seem to have a natural ability to play music while others have difficulty carrying a tune? Via The Conversation

Is it all just random, or can your favorite playlist actually tell us something about you? Scientists are starting to join the dots; they’re discovering that people’s personalities actually have a lot to do with their musical tastes.

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A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Cambridge has found that people’s musical tastes can actually be linked to one of three major thinking styles. The first group of people is empathizers – those who are keen about people’s emotions and thoughts; the second group is systemizers – those that are keen about rules, patterns and systems, and the third is the balanced group – those who are given to empathy as equally as they are to systemizing.

Research from the past decade has shown that 95% of people can be classified into one of these three groups and that they predict a lot of human behaviour. For example, they can predict things such as whether someone studies maths and science, or humanities at university. For the first time, we have shown that they can predict musical behaviour, too. Via The Conversation

The research team, with David Greenberg leading, conducted multiple studies that involved more than 4,000 participants. After data was taken to determine their individual thinking styles, each participant was asked to listen to up to 50 musical excerpts and then asked to indicate what their preferences were.

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The musical preferences of the participants were scored based on five music dimensions – contemporary (acid jazz, Euro pop), intense (hard rock, heavy metal), sophisticated (classical, traditional jazz), unpretentious (country, bluegrass, folk) and mellow (R&B, soft rock).

Across these studies, we found that empathisers preferred mellow music that had low energy, sad emotions, and emotional depth, as heard in R&B, soft rock, and singer-songwriter genres. For example, empathising was linked to preferences for “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones and Jeff Buckley’s recording of “Hallelujah”.

On the other hand, systemisers preferred more intense music, as heard in hard rock, punk and heavy metal genres. Systemisers also preferred music with intellectual depth and complexity as heard in avant-garde classical genres. For example, systemizing was linked to preferences for Alexander Scriabin’s “Etude opus 65 no 3”. Importantly, those who are Type B, had a tendency to prefer music that spans more of a range than the other two thinking styles. Via The Conversation

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These patterns were also observed within the same music genre too:

Researchers note that these similar correlations were found also found within a single genre of music. For example, when listening to rock music, empathizers preferred mellow, soft rock—rock ballads come to mind—while systemizers preferred intense—think shredded vocals and guitar solos that blow the windows out—hard rock…

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, there’s something for everyone. And chances are not everyone will like it. Via Popular Science

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