I’m always on the hunt for new music. I’m honestly proud of the fact that my musical tastes didn’t freeze in my teenage years. Nayantara Dutta explores how people form and retain their musical tastes for a piece in The Washington Post.
Many people tend to form their musical identity in adolescence, around the same time that they explore their social identity. Preferences may change over time, but research shows that people tend to be especially fond of music from their adolescent years and recall music from a specific age period — 10 to 30 years with a peak at 14 — more easily.
If I had been stuck listening to mostly Fugazi’s Repeater for the rest of my life, there would be something terribly boring about that. In addition to our formative years, our personalities play a big part in the music to which we are attracted.
Our cognitive styles and how we think may also predict what types of music we may like. A 2015 study by Greenberg and his colleagues distinguishes between systemizers and empathizers — people who understand the world through thoughts and emotions vs. people who are interested in rules and systems. “Empathizers tend to prefer sadness in music whereas [systemizers] prefer more intensity in music,” Greenberg said. “A lot of IT [and] data science professionals [are] high on systemizing and also prefer really intense music.”
This personality differential may explain why, as someone who tends to be more empathetic than systematic, I’ve found few people who like the same music while working with mostly engineers.
You can take the music test here. I found out that I prefer music that is mellow and sophisticated and dislike music that is “unpretentious.” So, basically, I like pretentious music.