Can you judge a person by their musical taste?


Fact Box

  • According to a recent poll, rock is the most popular musical category in the US, having garnered over 56% of respondents’ votes. 
  • One study revealed that people who enjoy complex musical genres, such as jazz or classical music, also tend to have high IQs. 
  • A recent study by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that young people who prefer to listen to rap and hip-hop music are more likely to be violent and abuse alcohol. 
  • About three to five percent of the world’s population has what’s known as specific musical anhedonia, which is a complete apathy toward any kind of music.  

Amelia (No)

While music may impact someone’s mood, thoughts, or feelings, one simply cannot judge a person by his or her musical taste. The reason that someone identifies with certain music varies greatly, so it is impossible to truly understand that connection without experiencing that music from their perspective.

Psychology experts assert that both humans and music are complex by nature, and therefore, any interaction between the two is a very complicated phenomenon. Furthermore, everyone perceives music through their own unique lens of experience, separate from their personal identity. 

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the founding story of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which is the driving force behind parental advisory stickers placed on albums with explicit lyrics. One of its founders, Susan Baker, explained that her seven-year-old didn’t understand the sexually provocative content of a popular Madonna song. That spurred her to want to label music accordingly. Instead of appreciating the catchy beat or award-winning melody, PMRC founders considered the song unappealing because the lyrical content didn’t align with the moral values they wanted to teach their children. However, they might have enjoyed the same song years earlier, before having a family and living a completely different type of life.

Another example is that two seemingly very different musical genres are actually deeply connected. Someone who listens to gospel music may be surprised to learn that some heavy metal music is very faith-based

Ultimately, how people identify with music is not a means to define who they are because circumstances play such an impactful role in appreciation.

Fariyal (Yes)

Music is enjoyed the world over. The feeling and connection it establishes for people is incomparable. Different people prefer different types of music, and research has revealed that these preferences actually correlate with varying aspects of our personalities.

However, this is not to say that liking a particular musical genre will reveal everything about someone; instead, it may point to one's social identity and the need to connect with a specific community. Often, people take musical genre preferences at face value, and in so doing, disregard the individual. But music isn't so cut-and-dry. It fulfills emotional needs and allows us to carve out our own identities--things that are crucial when defining individual personality.  

And it is this connection with personality that explains why certain 'types' are drawn to specific kinds of music. Extroverts, for example, are sensation seekers, looking to connect with other people--they are drawn to emotionally stimulating and sensational details. This need to connect is one of the main reasons why extroverts seek out music with vocals. In comparison, introverts are attracted to abstract, intellectual, and contemplative music. 

Correlating music with someone's personality means that you actually can judge someone by their musical taste. What songs someone listens to, how someone acts, what language they use, how they dress, etc., all say a lot about who someone is. And these factors are also responsible for why people feel connected to others with similar preferences, thus reinforcing the 'tribal function' of music. Further, this correlation also explains why people feel defensive about their musical taste, as it's an extension of their personality.

Music is not merely something that is enjoyed; it is a clear marker of who someone is.   

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