Does one's taste in music indicate how one might think or act?

A study about how musical preferences link to cognitive styles proposes that the type of music a listener prefers connects to whether they lean more warmly empathetic or cooly logical in everyday life.

The 2015 research article, recently cited by The Hill and subsequently picked up by Metal Injection, is being held as proof that one can accurately judge a person's personality by their musical tastes. So what does the study say about heavy metal and its adherents' capacity for empathy?

It claims that listeners of so-called "Intense dimension" genres such as hard rock and metal usually exhibit a bias towards more systematic or logical thinking, as opposed to showing empathy. Then who's more empathetic? Fans of low-key fare such as R&B and soft rock, the study says.

The research also purported to show that those who prefer softer music ("type E") gravitate to "gentle, warm and sensual" songs that might have dark or sad themes. Rock lovers and metalheads ("type S"), the paper says, prefer "high arousal" and "strong, tense and thrilling" music.

"Why do we like the music we do?" asks the study's introduction. "Research has shown that musical preferences and personality are linked, yet little is known about other influences on preferences such as cognitive styles. To address this gap, we investigated how individual differences in musical preferences are explained by the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory."

Ultimately, they found that listeners "who are type E (bias towards empathizing) preferred music on the Mellow dimension (R&B/soul, adult contemporary, soft rock genres) compared to type S (bias towards systemizing) who preferred music on the Intense dimension (punk, heavy metal and hard rock)."

Additionally, the article points out that past research has come to similar conclusions about whether one's taste in music can accurately reflect who one is as a person.

"Research over the past decade has argued that musical preferences reflect explicit characteristics such as age, personality and values," the study says. "Indeed, findings across studies and geographic regions have converged to show that the Big Five personality traits are consistently linked to preferences."

Past scientific studies about music that are unrelated to the above research have claimed that rock and metal listeners are among the happiest music fans, that metal music can help lower blood pressure and that high-intensity rock music is good for one's overall wellbeing.

Do you think your music tastes reflect how empathetic you are?

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