Music taste reveals style of thinking

The preferences show whether we are thinking more empathically or systematically

What music we hear reveals a lot about our way of thinking © Dolgachov / Thinkstock
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Bach or Stravinsky? Punk or Pop? Blues or Acid Jazz? Our musical preferences reveal how empathetic or systematic we think. As an experiment shows, our cognitive predisposition can even be read off our preferences within a music genre - regardless of gender or other type of personality, as the researchers report in the journal "PLOS ONE".

Music is a global phenomenon: it exists in almost every culture and it has a variety of positive effects on our body and mind. The type of music we are listening to can even be read off our brains. Whether we like a piece or not reveals much about our personality.

Rather empathetic or systematic?

David Greenberg of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have now investigated whether and how our musical taste also provides information about our cognitive style. Psychologists thus refer to a person's inclination to react empathically to his environment, or to being more systematic-rational-more interested in the rules and mechanisms behind things.

For their experiment, they asked 4, 000 subjects to complete a detailed psychological online questionnaire to assess their personality and cognitive style. The participants then listened to 50 pieces of music from 26 different genres and were asked to rate how well they liked the pieces.

Clear assignment

The result was surprisingly clear and independent of the other personality type and gender: those who had high empathy values ​​preferred soft, unpretentious music with a rather sad theme and avoided intense styles - they rather listen to soft rock, pop, blues or Latin as punk or heavy Metal, as the researchers explain. Rather systematically inclined people, on the other hand, liked more complex, loud, intense and stimulating music. display

Preferences of empathic type (type E), of balanced and systematic type (type S) Greenberg et al. / PLOS ONE, doi: 0.1371 / journal.pone.0131151

"Although the taste of music changes over time, the level of empathy and thinking style determines what kind of music someone likes, " says Greenberg. "The cognitive style can even better predict which music we prefer than our personality type." Whether we listen to Norah Jones or Jazz by Ornette Coleman, Stravinsky or Bach and Coldplay or Slayer, therefore loses more About us as we believe.

Readable even within a musical genre

These preferences were evident not only in the choice between different genres of music, but even within one style: in jazz, empathetic people preferred simple, emotional pieces, while systematically thought-provoking ones complex jazz pieces were presented. It was similar in classical or pop.

"This research confirms how much music is a reflection of ourselves, " says senior author Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge. "Music expresses who we are emotional, cognitive and social." As the researchers explain, the new findings could even help to better understand phenomena such as autism, For autistic people are regarded as extreme systematizers with a below-average level of empathy - that is, as extreme in terms of their cognitive style. (PloS ONE, 2015: doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0131151)

(University of Cambridge, 23.07.2015 - NPO)