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We are what we listen to

12 January 2008

This week, I read in a Portuguese magazine, called ‘Super Interessante‘ – a magazine which has various articles about various areas, like science, tecnology, culture, society, history and nature – from January/2008, an article that caught my eye (the website given is from the magazine’s brazilian edition). It was in the ‘Behaviour’ section, and I found it really interesting – pretty ironic, since the translation of this magazine name is ‘Very Interesting’. Hah!

Anyway, it talked about a recent study in the field of neuromusic which supports that the type of personality of people can be defined by the style of music they prefer to listen to. According to the American psychologist Sam Gosling , from the University of Texas, who based his study in a test – STOMP – applied to hundreds of people, the personality of people show some characteristic traces according to their music preferences. These are the main diferences he established (more generally):

  • Reflective & Complex: Classical, Blues, Folk and Jazz.
  • Intense & Rebellious: Alternative, Rock and Heavy Metal.
  • Upbeat & Conventional: Country, Religious, Pop and Soundtracks/theme songs.
  • Energetic & Rhythmic: Dance/Electronic, Rap/Hip Hop and Soul/Funk.

But there is much more to know about our musical preferences. The British psychologist Adrian North, from the University of Leicester, made a detailed research in 2006 over more than 2500 people chosen randomly. The questionnaire had various questions – not just about musical tastes but also about daily habits, relationships, income… The magazine gives interesting details about the statistics, like:

  • Those who love opera music tend to be dangerous when driving and are, in majority, married. They are also liberal, smart, with high education levels and higher income than the average. And they prefer wine better than beer.
  • Rockers have more tendency than the average to declare themselves as atheists. They are active and adventurous. The lovers of the rock of the 60’s are more prejudiced by unemployed than the others, but that is probably related to their average age. As far as those who listen heavy metal, they usually are curious, intelligent, athletics and confident of themselves.
  • Fans of pop music are considered to be happy, generous, predictable and conservative. They usually are considered to be attractive people as well.
  • Those who like musical films and soundtracks usually prefer wine better than beer too. More, they are the ones who smoke less.
  • Those who like hip hop music are fewer enthusiasts of recycling and of renewable energy sources. However, they are extrovert and energic people, with a high self esteem.
  • The fans of electronic music like to practice sports and exercise regularly. More, they are the ones who travel the most.
  • Single people listen to more DJ, hip hop, dance and house music, but when they get into a steady relationship, they gradually start to appreciate country, blues, pop and classic music.

Funny, heh? (:

Our musical taste gets more ’solid’ between 16 and 24 years old, according to North. But of course, it isn’t the same through our life. As far as we get older, our taste becomes more and more sophisticated, as our brain has already heard more music and is able to ‘enjoy’ more complex sounds. Nevertheless, it’s pretty rare to find someone who loves to listen to Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or so, and instantly changes it for Beethoven and Brahms.

There are other theories about how music influences us. But if I talked about all I’ve already heard, I wouldn’t leave my computer today. Ahah!

It may sound a bit preconceptious to label someone by their favourite music genre. But if we look closely, when people meet each other for the first time, one of the most likely subject to talk about is music. By knowing the other’s preferences, we instantly identify ourselves with that person or not. And that, surely, is crucial. There are actually social websites based on that fact, like last.fm.

So, see if these personality caracteristics really match yours. (:

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