Men with higher testosterone levels are less into classical music and opera

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Salivary testosterone was inversely correlated with preference for “sophisticated” music in men but not women (via Doi et al, 2018)

By Christian Jarrett

What counts as music to one person, sounds to another like a headache. Some of the difference is explained by our personalities (for instance, more open-minded people prefer classical) and our thinking style (systematisers prefer heavy metal more than empathisers). What’s not been examined before now, according to a paper in Personality and Individual Differences, is the biological basis of our musical tastes.

Hirokazu Doi at Nagasaki University and his colleagues asked 76 young Japanese adult participants, including 39 women, to listen to, and rate their enjoyment of, twenty-five 15-second musical excerpts. The clips were examples from five musical dimensions based on a system developed by the British psychologist Peter Rentfrow: Mellow (smooth and relaxing); Contemporary (including rap, funk, and acid jazz); Sophisticated (classical etc); Intense (loud, forceful and energetic); and Unpretentious (country and singer-songwriter genres).

The participants also completed a personality questionnaire and provided saliva samples which were analysed for testosterone.

Among the men only, there was an inverse correlation between their salivary testosterone level and their preference for sophisticated music (r=-.43). In the men, but not women, salivary testosterone also correlated positively with their personality scores on extraversion, openness-to-experience and agreeableness.

However, personality did not correlate with musical preferences and there was no evidence that the association between testosterone and musical preference was explained by the links between testosterone and personality.

“To the best of our knowledge, this the first demonstration of the link between biological predisposition and music preference,” the researchers said. They added that their finding “nicely dovetails” with previous biological research suggesting that higher testosterone is associated with rebelliousness and dominance, and other music research showing that young people see listening to classical music as a way to please authority figures.

Negative correlation between salivary testosterone concentration and preference for sophisticated music in males

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

9 thoughts on “Men with higher testosterone levels are less into classical music and opera”

  1. My taste of music depends on the mood and the task I am doing while listening to the music. When I do chores I listen to relatively slow rhythmic music. When I exercise I listen to fast rhythmic music.The music has to be resonant to catch my ear. Keywords for me are harmony and emotions in the song. Soft oldies impart peace and good vibes to the surroundings. New songs introduce unheard notes and tunes that tend to be catchy, if good. I think the kind of music we hear influences us and we also influence the kind of music we want to hear.

  2. This article doesn’t mention it, but others are displaying the headline “Men with high levels of testosterone are more into soft rock and less jazz and classical”, or something to that effect. I assume the test sample was exposed to soft rock. To me, soft rock is boring; I am far more interested in heavier rock, metal, and some dubstep. I think it is a misleading title. It should read “Men with higher levels of testosterone are more into soft rock and heavier rock…”. Of course, I appreciate the composers who gave us our classical masterpieces, but I have no interest to listen to Classical regularly.

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