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Are You More Of An ‘Empathiser’ or ‘Systemiser’? Your Music Playlist May Reflect Your Brain Type

Are You More Of An ‘Empathiser’ or ‘Systemiser’? Your Music Playlist May Reflect Your Brain Type

While you might think that the collection of tunes rocking around on your mp3 player or phone might just be a random assortment of your favorite songs, it turns out that you could secretly be displaying your true personality for all to see. New research published has indicated that some insight into your personality can be found by examining just what you have on your personal music playlists.

Some songs are linked with being higher in empathy and empathetic personality types, while others have indicated a more logical mental template.

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Although psychologists have long suspected a link between the kind of music that we enjoy and choose to surround ourselves with, and our personality traits, new research has expanded upon this; it has even identified certain branches of music as being more closely associated with particular “brain types”. The psychological research journal PLOS ONE has announced new research that indicates that your choices in music can help identify how your brain processes information, and therefore how you respond and react to new situations.

According to lead researcher and author David Greenberg, peoples’ cognitive styles and their personalities can help predict the kind of music they like, with Greenberg’s research breaking people down roughly into two categories. The Oxford University-based team who conducted the research spoke to 4,500 participants through apps on Facebook and Amazon (Facebook’s MyPersonality and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk applications). Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires, displaying the two types: ’empathisers’ who are more emotional, caring, and sympathetic, and ‘systemisers’, who are more logical, analytical, and objective.

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Empathisers tended to favor songs low on arousal (gentle, relaxing, reflective), with emotional depth in their lyrics and themes. This meant a tendency towards soft rock, easy listening, and adult contemporary music. Systemisers on the other hand prefer more high-energy music, such as punk, heavy metal, or hard rock music, with thrilling or strong beats.

This doesn’t mean that systemisers can’t be empathetic. People are more likely to generally exist on a spectrum, rather than to neatly fit into these two categories exactly; but, the idea of our musical preferences leading to psychological insight is intriguing to say the least. So, while you might think that your exclusive taste in Top 40 pop music might just be the way you like your tunes- (pop music has, by the way, been linked to extroversion and extrovert traits in test subjects)- it can actually be a useful insight into the way your brain works and how you process daily life.

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If you’re interested in which songs made the list for both categories, Greenberg et. al, listed some of their choices:

Songs associated with empathy

  • Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
  • Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  • All of Me – Billie Holiday
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

Songs associated with systemizing

  • Concerto in C – Antonio Vivaldi
  • Etude Opus 65 No 3 — Alexander Scriabin
  • God Save The Queen – The Sex Pistols
  • Enter the Sandman – Metallica

There are even some ideas for how this information can be applied. For example, imagine training yourself to be more empathetic and kinder person, by simply listening to some Jeff Buckley.

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If you’re interested in finding out where you lie on the spectrum, look over your recent musical history and ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • When you listen to music, do you often find yourself listening to the lyrics?
  • Do you specifically listen to music for the lyrical content and themes?
  • When watching charity advertisements on TV, do you often find yourself moved by them?

if you answered ‘yes’ to all three of the questions above, then you might just be leaning more towards the ’empathiser’ camp, while those who didn’t may find themselves more aligned with ‘systemisers’.

Psychological research into music is a rapidly developing area, and we can expect to see further developments as our relationships with the songs we love and our brains continues to be explored in depth.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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