The songs on your Spotify or Apple Music playlists could be a window to how you think.
A team of psychologists from the University of Cambridge published a study in PLOS ONE that links your thinking style to the type of music you like.
Whether you are an empathizer (who focuses on and responds to the emotions of others) or a systemizer (who analyzes rules and patterns in the world) is a predictor of whether you tend to prefer your jazz to be mellow or more complex and avant-garde.
Led by PhD student David Greenberg, the group of scientists looked into how our cognitive-style influences musical choices by looking at whether an individual scores highly on empathy or on systemizing — or whether a person has a balance of both.
The researchers mainly used the myPersonality Facebook app to recruit participants for the study. MyPersonality asked users to take a selection of psychology-based questionnaires and at a later date the same users were asked to listen to and rate 50 musical pieces from 26 different genres and subgenres.
Those who scored high on empathy tended to prefer mellow music including genres like R&B, soft rock and folk, while those who scored high on systemizing favored more intense music including genres like punk and heavy metal.
Upon taking an even closer look, researchers found that those who scored high on empathy also preferred music with low energy, or negative emotions, or emotional depth while those who scored high on systemizing preferred music that had high energy, or positive emotions, and also featured a high degree of cerebral depth and complexity.
Empathizers are more drawn by emotions and so the type of music they tend to listen to in some ways validates who they are and resonates with their way of thinking; it is consonant with how they structure their world, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Brustein, PsyD.
“Systemizers prefer more structure and emotions may even be threatening,” Dr. Brustein told Metro via email. “They may be more prone to intellectualizing.”
Also a trained jazz saxophonist, Greenberg said the research could have implications for the music industry when it comes to things like Spotify and Apple Music fine tuning their music recommendations for individuals by knowing a person’s thinking style.
“It is very interesting that the journal focuses on using the knowledge of one’s listening style to the application for marketing and not mental health,” Dr. Brustein said.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a member of the research team, said that the research could “help us understand those at the extremes, such as people with autism, who are strong systemizers.”
Want to quickly determine whether you score high on empathy or high on systemizing? Take a look at these lists of songs and decide which has more musical numbers that you enjoy listening to.
High on empathy
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
Come away with me – Norah Jones
All of me – Billie Holliday
Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
High on systemizing
Concerto in C – Antonio Vivaldi
Etude Opus 65 No 3 – Alexander Scriabin
God Save the Queen – The Sex Pistols
Enter Sandman – Metallica