Sun God Complaints Justified by Science

Judging by the online debates: Yes, it does. Judging by studies about the importance of music, especially for our demographic: Yes, it does. In fact, as far back as 1989, scientists ran a test to figure out the all-important question of whether people with societally determined “good” music taste are more attractive: Yes, they are.

First, it’s important to acknowledge that our music tastes are a) probably already set, and b) will get less and less cool over time. A 2008 University of Alabama study showed that lifelong music preferences stem from whatever we listened to from 16 to 21 — suggesting that a large part of this love stems from nostalgia and that 20 years from now we’ll get teary-eyed when “Talk That Talk” comes on the oldies channel. This study is right on the money — why yes, I am excited about Paul van Dyk, and yes, that may have something to do with that (perhaps ill-advised) phase in high school when I only listened to European trance a la Darude and Tiësto.

Then, there’s a battery of papers about the importance of music taste to both personal identification and how we perceive others. A 2009 Cambridge University study determined what we’ve all instincti0vely known since we began shunning others for (still) liking Avril Lavigne in the ninth grade: People, especially, as the study cites, us “young people,” stereotype others based on their music tastes. 

More interesting is the research that suggests these stereotypes are generally true. In 2003, Rentfrow and Gosling at the University of Texas at Austin evaluated undergrads on both their music taste and personalities. People who like “high-brow” music (think classical, blues, jazz) are emotionally stable, open to new experiences and have above-average  intelligence and verbal abilities. 

Most of the same traits are present for those who like rock music, except the latter are also more athletic (which could due to the male-oriented bias in these genres). Lovers of top 40 and rap/hip-hop are not only more athletic, they are also more agreeable, extroverted and likely to be politially liberal. And finally, in another blow to everyone’s love-to-hate genres, devotees of pop music, religious music and, yes, country, are agreeable and conscientious and generally wealthier — but also have low verbal ability and are more narrow-minded and politically conservative. 

The news is bad for country fans in the dating field as well. In the aforementioned 1989 paper, researchers had undergraduates make several dating videos about themselves in which everything was kept constant except music taste. Other undergrads then judged the videos and rated the subjects’ attractiveness. 

The results showed a correlation between music taste and attractiveness, though the individual results were unremarkable: Men who like rock music were more appealing (though the same is not true for women). 

Women who like classical music were more appealing (again, not true for the opposite sex). 

Everyone who liked country music was less attractive (the exception, of course, being our own Opinion Editor Madeline Mann, who essentially out-Taylor Swifts Taylor Swift).

In conclusion, science confirms everything we secretly thought was true. Music is important. It defines us. Don’t listen to country.