The future of personality tests might be less Myers-Briggs and more personal playlist. Cambridge University psychologists have set out to make a test that determines your personality type through your taste in music—and early results have been promising. Their “Musical Universe” quiz asks a variety of questions related to qualities like level of extroversion, openness to new experiences, perceived emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. It also gives participants 25 sound clips to rate on a scale of “dislike extremely” to “like extremely.”
Into soothing, slow-paced tunes? Their research suggests you might be an empathizer. Prefer something a little more experimental? You might be a systemizer. But what does that mean, exactly?
Empathizers, as the name suggests, are good at understanding how others feel and why. Early research suggests that these types of people are more likely to prefer deep, chilled out, and even sad music. They are stimulated by how music makes them feel.
Systemizers aren’t as concerned with how music makes them feel; instead, they derive pleasure in listening to a song’s structural qualities. Think a beautifully laid-out melody, the impressive improvisation of a gifted live musician, or an extended set with a clear beginning, middle, end, and everything in between. Systemizers love how each element comes together, like pieces of a puzzle forming a complete picture. In everyday life, they’re likely to be good at math and seeing patterns in everyday life.
Cambridge psychologist David Greenberg, who heads up the study and has interviewed thousands of people about their musical preferences, believes the difference between the two types possibly boils down to the way our brains are wired. The brain of an empathizer might actually release more of a soothing hormone when stimulated by emotional music.
Greenberg hasn’t made any claims about what these findings might imply on a broader level. But the way we see it, this research could eventually tell us a lot about ourselves with just a few songs. Perhaps everything from the artists and tracks we’re obsessed with to the similarly obsessed people we gravitate to is a result of how we’re hardwired before birth.
Take David Greenberg’s Musical Universe quiz here. Read more about their study online at the Independent.