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Study Shows What Our Music Tastes Reveal About Our Personalities

Are you a systemizer or an empathizer?

Images via Flickr users (cc) Kevin Hanson and Nacho Criado

Sometimes in high school, kids form cliques around the types of music they are passionate about. The goth kids are bound together by a love of The Cure and black clothing. Punk rock kids wear their music pinned all over their denim jackets with patches proclaiming their dedication to The Clash or The Misfits. The popular kids usually share a common love of top 40. People who enjoy the same types of music often share similar world views and temperaments. A new study shows there are two personality types that can predict our tastes in music.


Cambridge psychologist David Greenberg carried out a survey with nearly 4,000 participants and learned that people are, “Seeking music that reflects who we are, so that includes personality. That includes the way we think, and it may even be the way our brain is wired,” Greenberg told CNN. The study revealed that when it comes to music, there are two types of people: systemizers and empathizers. Empathizers are attracted to music that elicits strong thoughts and feelings. Systemizers are interested in the sonic structure and see it as an intriguing puzzle.

“People who are high on empathy may be preferring a certain type of music compared to people who are more systematic,” Greenberg told CNN. Empathizers are found to be good listeners and enjoy music in the style of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Adele’s “Hello.” Systemizers lean towards jobs in science and math, and enjoy energetic music that elicits feelings of happiness or anger, such as Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones or Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”

The study also found that our musical tastes can depend on how open minded we are. “People who are open to new experiences tend to prefer music from the blues, jazz, classical, and folk genres,” the study says. “People who are extroverted and agreeable tend to prefer music from the pop, soundtrack, religious, soul, funk, electronic, and dance genres.” So next time you see someone list their favorite types of music on an online dating profile, they may be telling you more about themselves than you previously thought.