Think you’re taking a glance into the deepest, darkest recesses of someone’s soul? Not quite, it’s Spotify’s list of the most listened to songs of 2016. But according to research, song lists can give us a lot more than a mere glimpse into which tunes have gone viral this year.
A three-year investigation carried out by Dr. Adrian North of Curtin University, Australia, correlated the music preferences and personality traits of over 36,000 volunteers. The study’s findings revealed that those who listened predominantly to a specific genre were likely to have certain personality traits associated with that style of music.
So if you’ve ever felt an instant connection to someone because of the music they like, or if you’ve gone the other way and cringed when someone told you what their favourite song was, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
What can Spotify’s 2016 top streaming list tell us about people’s behaviour
Well, Drake tops the list for most streamed artist of the year. According to North’s research, hip-hop fans are extroverted and have high self-esteem. They’re less likely to want to sit in their bedrooms poring over the sleeve notes, a pair of headphones shutting out the outside world.
Another University of Texas study suggested that rap listeners are liberal, tend to perceive themselves as attractive but are also prone to ‘blirtatiousness’, which is best described as saying what’s on one’s mind as soon as it comes up. Kanye West is certainly prone to it. We’ll leave you to decide if it’s a good or a bad thing.
Justin Bieber, meanwhile, maintains his position as one of the most streamed artists this year. His attempts at breaking out of teen pop into a more rough-hewn gangster persona may have swayed some, but for those who categorise his music as pop, it is associated with low creativity and nervousness. It’s not all bad though! According to North’s investigation, pop fans also have high self-esteem, as well as being hard-working and outgoing.
The Beatles are currently Spotify’s top classic rock artists of 2016. North’s study claims that classic rock fans are easygoing, though there’s a caveat. They’re also the most selfish according to the results. If Bon Jovi and the Beatles can both be classified as classic rock though, that’s a pretty wide-ranging genre right there!
Indie rock fans, who sometimes get a bad rep as hipsters, are vindicated by the findings, which suggest they are creative and open to new experiences. There is a flipside, however, as they have a low self-esteem and work ethic.
Folk, Jazz, Blues
Older styles such as folk, jazz and blues are, perhaps unsurprisingly, associated with deep thinkers, the genres being a staple for this years surprise Nobel literature prizewinner, Bob Dylan.
Classical music lovers are also considered to have high intelligence, high self-esteem and are more likely to be introverted. Though these genres are practically non-existent on Spotify’s most streamed list of 2016, they’re undeniably present in spirit, modern artists borrowing heavily from the styles.
It’s a bit farfetched perhaps to think that a song list can give us a really profound insight into human behaviour. However, North’s paper does draw a direct correlation between musical listening habits and the behavioural traits mentioned.
What Else Does Research Say About Music?
Not only is classical music associated with smarter people, it is also associated with actively making us smarter. There is existing scientific evidence that suggests classical music can boost brain power. An experiment was carried out in which the exact same lecture was given to two group of students. One, however, was listening to classical music throughout and the other had no music on.
The students were tested on the material of the lecture afterwards. According to the researchers “students who heard the music-enhanced lecture scored significantly higher on the quiz than those who heard the music-free version.”
So educators can help students absorb information “by turning to some old friends: Beethoven, Bach, and Tchaikovsky.”
Music can also apparently make you a better person. A University of Cambridge study recently highlighted a link between musical learning and enhanced emotional intelligence. Similarly, psychology specialists pointed out that crime and drop out rates decreased a decade ago in Venezuela when music lessons were made mandatory in schools.
Musical preference has always been a source of intense emotions. Sometimes it results in equally intense, almost tribal-like, rivalries. Whether it’s Blur vs Oasis or Kanye vs everyone, people may enjoy both but they’ll never concede that the other’s better than their favourite. All we know is that according to mounting evidence, next time you’re sending someone a personal playlist, you may also be sending them a window into your mind.