Cognitive styles affect music preferences

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Researchers from Cambridge University have found that a person’s cognitive style influences that person’s taste for music.

The study identified participants and segregated them into 2 distinct categories. Namely, Type E (Empathetic cognitive thinking) and Type S (Systematic cognitive thinking).

The study found that people with Type E personalities preferred music that were on the mellow spectrum (R&B, Soul, Adult contemporary) while Type S people preferred music that were on the intense spectrum (Hard rock).

The study looked at 4 broad factors to assess people’s preferences in music.

  1. Perceptual Processing – taking in and making sense of audio and visual content in music.
  2. Affective reactivity – reacting emotionally and physiologically to it
  3. Intellectual interpretation – interpreting emotional and sonic elements within the music with the whole.
  4. Prediction – Anticipating the expected direction of the music and thoughts and feelings of the music.

Type E personalities preferred music with the following physiological traits – namely, mellow music which were low in arousal, negative valence and emotional depth.

Type S preferred music that were high in arousal, positive valence and cerebral depth.

In terms of sonic traits, Type E personalities preferred music with strings, while Type S personalities preferred music that was dense, distorted, loud, percussive, fast and which had brass and electric guitar elements.

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The evidence obtained suggests that differences in brain activity and structure influences people’s music preferences.

Results from this research can be applied to music therapies, clinical interventions and interactive programs which aim to teach emotions and mental states via music.

The findings also reveal how people with autism (below average cognitive empathy and extreme Type S personalities) may have certain preferences in music.

It has also been piqued that future research in this area could analyze the way autistic personalities interact with music and how music could be a stimulus in encouraging empathy in people or improving reasoning skills.

Article Source:
Musical Preferences are Linked to Cognitive Styles
Greenberg DM, Baron-Cohen S, Stillwell DJ, Kosinski M, Rentfrow PJ (2015) Musical Preferences are Linked to Cognitive Styles. PLOS ONE 10(7): e0131151. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131151
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