Music offers insight, understanding into others


Ana La Rosa Grillo, Staff Writer

There have been hundreds of millions of songs made since the beginning of humankind. Throughout this time music has converted from a luxury to a necessity for many in society. There are over a thousand genres of music, and each appeals to different audiences. But what does your taste in music say about you? Apparently, a lot more than we’d expect.

In order to truly understand people by their music tastes we must keep an open mind and not be prejudiced. It is easy to fight over why you think your music is better than someone else’s, but trying to understand each other and appreciating that you have different music tastes is definitely a better use of time. Next time you meet someone new, or are talking with a friend, try asking them what kind of music they’re into, you might learn a thing or two about them you might’ve never known otherwise.

“Taste can offer us a doorway into people’s lives,” says psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, Sam Gosling. “Taste reveals a lot about what someone values and needs to fill their life with meaning. To put it in simple terms, different kinds of music appeal to different personalities. 

That does not mean you can assume you know someone based on just their music though. It’s important not to apply inaccurate stereotypes to everyone with a specific music taste since people are much more complicated than that. One person may have a lot of different defining characteristics that go along with more than one taste in music. People are multidimensional, yet we can still learn about a person based on what kind of music they listen to, how they listen to it and when they listen to it. 

For example, people who are very open-minded and curious tend to have a more adventurous and wide variety of music taste. Because of this, these people tend to know more about what it is to make good music, and are much more cultured. These people can be called taste hunters. 

On the other end of this spectrum are people who are stuck in the ways of their youth. These people are significantly less open than taste hunters and tend to be stuck on the same music genre or band. They tend to make this part of their personality and are resistant to change. 

Extroverted, lively, and active people seem to enjoy music that satisfies their sensory needs, like rock, metal, pop, EDM, etc. They want to feel hyped up and simulated. These are called thrill seekers. Thrill seekers, being the extroverts they are, enjoy being social and connecting to people. This draws them to music with a human voice, causing them to prefer music with vocals.

However, introverts prefer music that is more thoughtful and complicated. They tend to enjoy classical music due to its contemplative nature. They also might like songs that tell a story or are very layered, like certain kinds of K-pop. 

Others listen only to music that fits their “aesthetic.” These people see music as a way to further show off who or what they want to be. Their music usually matches their sense of style or even home decor. For example, a goth person who solely listens to goth simply because it fits their vibe, and not necessarily because they enjoy it more than any other kind of music. 

Similarly there are people who use music as a social act. They pick a genre or band and they use that band, or genre’s aesthetic, or style in order to create an identity for themselves. These people may find themselves boring or unlikable, so they use something external to change something internal. This is likely with people who are very insecure about their appearance. 

Research shows a correlation between these people who are mentally ill and listening to sad, angry or emotional music. It is much more likely a mentally ill person would frequently listen to these genres as opposed to someone mentally stable. Neurotic or anxious people, specifically. have shown to use music as a tool for emotional regulation instead of just another source of media. 

Similar to the thrill seekers and neurotics, neurodivergent people also use music as a form of sensory stimulation, and emotional regulation. Many people on the spectrum or ADHD-ers tend to find music as an escape from the noisy overstimulating world, and into a world where they control the noise. It’s also not uncommon that they treat music as a way to better communicate their feelings and understand others. 

It is also important to note that these examples can only tell us so much.  A study done by Psychology Today on this topic has found that we tend to be wrong about our assumptions of people who listen to music like rap, rock and metal. This is largely due to internalized ideas of who we think people are based on their physical appearance or race. 

As you can see there are many personalities that link to certain types of music, or forms of listening to it.  These are not all the examples but to me the most interesting. You can find out so much about a person from what a person listens to as long as you remember to look for the right things, and take into account that people are complicated, and it’s not an exact science. One person may identify with being a thrill seeker and an emotional regulator. Another might identify with being a taste hunter, an introvert and be neurodivergent.