Norah Jones or Sex Pistols? Thinking style moulds taste: Study

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Published: July 23, 2015 10:36:01 AM

If you like the mellow sounds of jazz singer Norah Jones, you could well be what a new study calls "an empathiser" who responds to the emotions of others.

If you like the mellow sounds of jazz singer Norah Jones, you could well be what a new study calls “an empathiser” who responds to the emotions of others.

If, on the other hand, you go for the Sex Pistols, the same study says you could be a “systemiser” who likes to analyse rules and patterns in the world.

The study, published on Wednesday in the contributory research journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge in England, led by PhD student David Greenberg from the Department of Psychology.

“Although people’s music choices fluctuate over time, we’ve discovered a person’s empathy levels and thinking style predicts what kind of music they like,” Greenberg said in a press release.

“In fact, their cognitive style – whether they’re strong on empathy or strong on systems – can be a better predictor of what music they like than their personality.”

The study was based on a sample of 4,000 Facebook users who were asked to respond to psychology-based questionnaires, and whose musical tastes were matched up with their cognitive style as determined by their responses.

“People who scored high on empathy tended to prefer mellow music (from R&B, soft rock, and adult contemporary genres), unpretentious music (from country, folk, and singer/songwriter genres) and contemporary music (from electronica, Latin, acid jazz, and Euro pop),” the study found.

“They disliked intense music, such as punk and heavy metal. In contrast, people who scored high on systemising favoured intense music, but disliked mellow and unpretentious musical styles.”

The study showed that people’s musical tastes were consistent even within genres, with “empathisers” preferring mellow jazz while “systemisers” liked intense, complex and avant-garde jazz.

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