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What does your favorite music say about you?
Your taste in tunes can indicate a lot more than you think
Play on.
Play on. (Thinkstock)

Yes, people can get a decent impression of you by just hearing about the type of music you like.

Specifically, music is a very strong predictor of how open to new experiences you are.

You can even predict whether someone is politically conservative or liberal by seeing markers of openness in their music collections:

The bedrooms of liberals reflected the residue associated with high openness. They contained a significantly greater number and variety of books — on travel, ethnic issues, feminism, and music, as well as a greater number and variety of music CDs, including world music, folk music, classic and modern rock, and "oldies." [Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You]

So what types of people like what kinds of music?

In a series of studies, Rentfrow, Gosling and their colleagues show that musical tastes powerfully predict people's personalities… By analyzing the preferences of almost two thousand people, they found four major dimensions along which musical tastes vary:

1) Reflective and Complex tastes for music, such as the blues, jazz, classical, and folk music, tend to indicate that a person is emotionally stable, open to new experiences, and has above average intelligence and verbal ability.

2) Intense and Rebellious tastes, including a like for rock, alternative, or heavy metal, tend to be shared by people who are open, athletic, and of above average intelligence and verbal ability.

3) People with Upbeat and Conventional taste tend to like country, sound tracks, religious music, and pop, and are usually agreeable, extroverted, conscientious, politically conservative, wealthy, athletic, with low openness, dominance and verbal ability. I always knew there was something suspect about pop-lovers.

4) Last, folks who like rap or hip-hop, soul, funk, electronica are said to have Energetic and Rhythmic tastes, and they are highly extroverted, agreeable, and athletic, tend to speak their minds, and are often politically liberal. [Sex, Genes & Rock 'n' Roll: How Evolution Has Shaped the Modern World]

Is country music connected to suicide? It's very likely:

The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. ["The Effect of Country Music on Suicide” from Social Forces, Vol. 71, No. 1. (Sep., 1992), pp. 211-218]

Meanwhile, rock music doesn't lead to suicide and metalheads are actually more mentally heathy than most. It's those people who like opera that you need to look out for.

The music we listened to at 20 we'll probably love for the rest of our lives. If we're 35 when a new type of music appears it's 95 percent likely we'll never listen to it.

Sapolsky found that most of us end up playing and loving the music we're exposed to when we're around twenty years old (or younger) for the rest of our lives, and that if a person is over the age of 35 when a new pop music style makes its mark, there's a greater than 95 percent chance he or she will never listen to it. After conducting similar inquiries about food and fashion, he concluded that our "window of openness" for new experiences, like getting our tongue pierced, slams shut at age 23 and our openness to trying out new foods (say, sweetbreads or calves' livers) pretty much closes for good at 39. [Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy]

So, yes, the music you like says a lot about you — but don't go thinking you're utterly unique and objective, however.

Your parents' musical taste affects what you like. Social factors influence the music you enjoy. Those top 10 lists have more power than you ever guessed:

The implications were clear: Whether or not a song became a "hit" was determined solely by whether it was perceived as already being popular. This is what I mean about the two-tier system: Whatever gains an early advantage in popularity will win. This may not seem so bad at first, but look at it this way: If we're duped into buying something just because it's popular (even if it isn't), think about all the great books or songs or CDs we might be missing simply because they weren't on that "top ten" list. [Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy]

Finally, research also shows music truly can change how we see the world. So don't treat music too lightly. And turn the radio up in the car today.


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