2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life

Personality and musical preferences


head_gear_500_wht_2011Scientists from the University of Cambridge have investigated how our personalities relate to our musical preferences. In particular whether or not we have an empathising brain or a systematising one.

People with empathising brains like to understand thoughts and emotions and were found to be more likely to prefer soft rock and R&B. “They wanted music with emotional depth that was thoughtful and poetic”. Mariah Carey and Bon Jovi were quoted as examples.

I don’t know who they thought was the R&B representative but they probably mean the modern definition of urban music not the gritty real thing like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, or Jimmy Reed.

People who were systematisers – the kind of people who are interested in the processes and the details –  preferred music that was more intense such as punk, rock, and heavy metal. “They also wanted cerebral depth and complexity, classical, jazz and avant-garde music.

I’m not sure how useful this distinction is given the range of musical tastes among the systematisers. I can understand the classical, jazz and avant gated but where is the complexity in punk and heavy metal?

FYI the idea of empathisers v systematisers was developed by Simon Baron-Cohen who is well known for his research into autism. He believes that people who are high on systematising tend are found at the autistic end of the spectrum.

His research is not without its critics e.g. he found that there were more women on the empathiser scale and more men on the systematiser scale. But there are more men than women who are on the autistic end of the spectrum sometimes described as having Asperger’s syndrome (i.e. attention to detail, preoccupation with a subject e.g. avid collectors). And yes, he is Ali G’s smarter cousin.

If you want to see for yourself whether you are more empathiser than systematiser go here for empathiser or systematiser questionnaire.


Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

2 thoughts on “Personality and musical preferences

  1. That research fully applies to me – I love the intensity of metal, and believe me a metalcore piece is quite complex and intense, but also listen a lot to Jazz. A typical systemizer indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.