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Brief Published: 28 Jul 2015

Music Linked to Mindsets

Intense music is favoured by 'analysers'

Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK have discovered a link between individuals' taste in music and how they think.

Writing in the journal Plos One on July 22, the team of psychologists showed that a person's empathy levels and thinking style predict what kind of music they like.

At a basic level, empathisers prefer mellow music such as R&B, soft rock and folk, and contemporary music including electronica and pop. More analytic personalities prefer intense music like punk or heavy metal, and complex styles such as avant-garde jazz. The study even finds similar patterns within genres as well as between them.

Speaking on the University of Cambridge's website, Dr Jason Rentfrow, senior author on the study, says: "This line of research highlights how music is a mirror of the self. Music is an expression of who we are emotionally, socially and cognitively."

The research could eventually help improve the software that enables streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to recommend new music to users. Brands and marketers are also likely to be interested that something as subjective as music tastes can apparently offer objective clues into consumer mindsets – especially as much of our consumption is now measurable online and on mobile.

For more innovations in music and audio, see Digital Music in Flux and Power of Sound: Audio Innovations.