Does Your Taste in Music Reveal Anything About You?

Katie Jones

Whether it’s the poppy, intrusive shrill of a girl band as you struggle through the swarms of shoppers in your local Primark; chocolatey smooth tones of some unknown hipster-with-a-guitar as you sip a latte in an overpriced coffee shop; or the familiar beats of your favourite Spotify playlist as you struggle to meet a deadline in the library — music is an inescapable part of everyday life. Apparently we’re exposed to music for a fifth of our lives – but what influences the music that we listen to? Why do we choose to listen to certain genres and reject others? What can our music taste tell us about our personalities?


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A recent study carried out by The University of Cambridge recently claimed that all people can be categorised as either ‘Empathisers’ – fans of R&B and soft rock, ‘Systemisers’ – fans of rock and classical music, or ‘Balanced’ (a mixture of the two). Personally I’m a little skeptical of being able to band all of humanity into these three quite distinct groups.

However, I am more convinced by another deduction from the study. This suggests there are five main ways in which we, as humans, engage with the music that we listen to. They claim that our personality directs the way in which we engage with music; and therefore, what we gain from music shapes our musical preferences and the genres of music that we listen to.

To be more clear, these five areas of musical engagement are:

Emotional Engagement: Those who engage emotionally with music use it as an emotional release, to process both positive and negative feelings.

Intellectual Engagement: These people notice patterns within music more than the average person and engage in the sonic and melodic aspects of music.

Physical Engagement: Those annoying people (according to the test, I’m one, myself) who whether in private or public, find it difficult to listen to music without bobbing their head or tapping their foot.

Social Engagement: Social engagers relate to the artists of the music that they listen to, and gain a sense of belonging and cohesion when listening to music as a group, or when standing in the audience at a concert.

Narrative Engagement: These are people who strive to find meaning within the music that they listen to. They search for symbols within the narrative of the music and tend to compare these to their own life as a way of processing what’s happening in their own day to day life.

Can you see yourself in any of these “Engagement Areas”? It’s likely that you’re a mix of two or three, or even all of them. Alternatively, you may be able to completely rule out a couple too!

Broadly speaking; emotional, intellectual and narrative engagers are more reflective, thoughtful introverts. These people prefer “complex” music and enjoy trying to understand what they listen to. Often they listen too classical, country or rock music, where they can subconsciously investigate the different levels and layers within the music. On the other hand, physical and social engagers tend to be more assertive, talkative extroverts. Typically, these people enjoy music with a more up-tempo, reassuring beat that they can bop along to, or lyrics that they can easily memorise and belt out in a crowd.

I’m not sure whether the findings carried out by the study can add any life-changing meaning to your life, and the results do seem a little simplistic. However, somehow it all seems to make sense. If you’d like to find out what type of musical engager you are, and also help out with some worthwhile research, you can take the quiz yourself by following this link:


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