Cambridge University study suggests Queen fans likely to be more empathetic than Sex Pistols fans

Researchers found people good at "systemising" tend to listen to more "intense" music

A new study claims that your taste in music can be indicative of how your brain works.

The results of a recent study by Cambridge University researchers found that listeners of mellow music tend to be more empathetic, whereas those who were good at “systemising” tend to listen to more intense music.

An ’empathiser’ is responsive to other people’s emotions, while a ‘systemiser’ will analyse rules and patterns in the world when making their decisions.

The researchers recruited 4,000 participants, all of whom took part in a series of different tests to find out whether they could be categorised as ’empathisers’ or ‘systemisers’.

The tests were conducted in a variety of forms, including both personality questions and music questions, where they had to rate 50 short pieces of music in 26 different styles.

The different styles included the “mellow” R&B, soft rock and folk, and then heavier music like punk, heavy metal and more complex music such as avant-garde jazz, to determine whether they were an “empathiser” or “systemiser”.

Artists who ranked highly with empathisers included Jeff Buckley, Queen and Norah Jones while systemisers were more likely to enjoy music from artists such as Metallica and Sex Pistols.

NMEAndy Willsher/NME

Doctoral student David Greenberg, who led the team, said: “Although people’s music choices fluctuate over time, we’ve discovered a person’s empathy levels and thinking style predicts what kind of music they like.

“In fact, their cognitive style – whether they’re strong on empathy or strong on systems – can be a better predictor of what music they like than their personality.”

Greenberg added: “A lot of money is put into algorithms to choose what music you may want to listen to, for example on Spotify and Apple Music. By knowing an individual’s thinking style, such services might in future be able to fine-tune their music recommendations to an individual.”

A recent, separate study claimed to show that “extreme” music genres like punk and heavy metal makes listeners calmer.
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