What your taste in music says about you

Music genres are easy to picture as characters in and of themselves. In your mind’s eye conjure the appearance of an individual who you’d consider to embody heavy metal, country, or rap. These images create themselves, and even if you love these particular genres, the chances are that the person you’re imagining doesn’t look much like you. Our relationship with music is much more complicated than the stereotypical representations that genres carry with them. However, that isn’t to say our tastes in music don’t reveal details about our personalities and who we are. We’re here to set the record straight, and give you a clearer sense about what your music collection says about you.

People in record store

What the experts say

Over the years numerous tests have claimed to be able to determine aspects of your personality by analysing your musical tastes. Some of these tests do have more scientific integrity than others though. However, the results of these tests do begin to reveal a pattern.

Some studies have discovered links between individual’s music tastes and their empathy levels. They can also use information on people’s musical preferences to determine whether they are more empathetic or systematic thinkers. A psychological study undertaken by the University of Cambridge told CNN that “people who are high on empathy may be preferring a certain type of music compared to people who are more systematic.” A pattern was found between a love of mellow, very emotive music and those with a highly developed sense of empathy. Whereas those with a more systematic thinking process, being less emotionally led, often enjoy complex, intense music.

David Greenberg, a psychologist who worked on this study, told CNN that the more systematic thinkers were “focusing more on the instrumental elements…almost like a musical puzzle that they’re putting together”. The study also states that this relationship with music is reflected in other areas of people’s lives. For instance, those whose musical preferences suggest they’re more systematic thinkers may be more likely to work in industries requiring mathematical or scientific knowledge. Greenberg suggests that this isn’t that surprising as “we are seeking music that reflects who we are…it may even be the way our brain is wired”. Therefore, it makes sense that pattern between these people and their musical tastes is repeated elsewhere in their lives.

So, what about you?

You might be thinking that your own tastes in music are very broad. Therefore, you can’t quite tell what this study means for you. Worry not. Mr Greenberg says that it’s likely that that means you simply score pretty evenly on empathising and systemising tests. Making you what the study would refer to as a “balanced” thinker.

Finally, bear in mind that these results are generalisations only. The theories put forward are not applicable to everyone individually, they only work when applied to large, diverse groups. The other thing to bear in mind is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ music to like. Our musical preferences are purely subjective, as we base them upon what makes us as individuals happy.


Also published on Medium.