Music – The Litmus Test for Shared Values

Have you ever wondered – what is it about music that sometimes connects us to a total stranger?  What’s it about music that connects us across cultures, geographical boundaries, and language barriers?


Does your head turn around if you hear someone listening to one of your favorite songs?   All of a sudden the stranger seem to stand out in the crowd, a sense of connection follows and your senses now sharpen trying to grasp few more details before the person disappears in the crowd. It suddenly feels like you got a chance to peep through a little window into the stranger’s soul and probably saw a tiny mirror that reflected you!

I remember watching the movie Rock Star – throughout the movie I was connected with Ranbir’s character, my fingers involuntarily moved playing the different chords in my head, feeling the pain, lost and  engrossed in the musical odyssey except for the few moments Nargis Fakhri  (the lead lady) disrupted the plot.  No, seriously I wasn’t being envious :), I do agree she is incredibly pretty – but the character demanded much more beyond that pretty face, she seemed so  disconnected to the whole musical experience that Ranbir was going through in the movie.  He probably was synesthatic  and  was seeing  music as he heard them (Synesthesia – is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. For example:  People experiencing synesthesia could hear a certain  musical note and see a color, or smell a perfume and hear a sound.).

Music – The language of emotions

The musical experience is different from literature or a piece of painting. Music is “expressive” of emotions, rather than “representing” the emotion. For example one might paint a person crying, the painting represents the person’s sadness, yet in itself it is not a sad painting. Whereas when it comes to music, it is not representing an emotion – it just expresses that emotion. Professor Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and composer, explains that brain’s emotional, language and memory centers are connected during the processing of music – providing what is essentially a synesthetic experience. The extent of this connection is seemingly variable among individuals and hence the emotional experiences vary from person to person.

Musical Preference – A reflection of our value and personality

Our favorite music, the sounds we connect with most profoundly, are very personal to us. The study in the Psychology of Music sighted music as a good reflection of our values, which is why we are drawn to people with the same musical tastes.

Personality and Music Preference
Personality and Music Preference

Many research studies have used the Big Five personality traits as their measures for personality, which breaks personality down into five categories  – openness to agreeablenessextraversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. There have been researches to find if personality traits  correlate with the emotional effect music has on people and their taste for music.

Results indicated that the different dimensions of musical preferences do in fact correlate with different personality types Here’s a quick glance on the type of music and how they co relate to the personality type.

  • Reflective and Complex: positively correlated with openness to experience, Negatively correlates with neuroticism and conscientiousness
  • Intense and Rebellious: positively correlated with openness to experience, extroversion. Negatively correlates with neuroticism and conscientiousness
  • Upbeat and Conventional: positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness,conscientiousness, neuroticism. Negatively correlated with  openness to experience,
  • Energetic and Rhythmic: Positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness,


Would this then necessarily mean music compatibility should be the sole criteria for a happy relationship? Well,  relationships are multi-faceted and there are other aspects to be looked into. But musical preference definitely is a good LITMUS TEST that gives us a hint about a  person’s values, empathy and emotional openness. In an instant, it can tell you more than anything else would. It definitely gives you a chance to peep into the person’s  soul.

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