Why do I like rock and why do you like country? Why does anyone like country, actually? Kidding! We kid, because we love. Seriously though–the most recent issue of Psychology of Music has a pretty interesting article on identity, music, and sexual attraction. This led us to think about why we like what we like, and how this can make or break a relationship. Seriously–would YOU be sexually attracted to someone who was into Yanni? Anyway, let's figure this out.
1. At some point in adolescence, music becomes a symbol of identity to help you belong.
Basically, when you're a kid and your hormones are raging and you're trying to figure out who you are and what you want, you put together a set of symbols that allow you to communicate your identity to the world. Music plays a huge part in that–according to a research duo named North and Hargraves, music functions as a 'badge' people use to not only judge others but at the same time, to express their own self-concepts. The kid who wants to appear rebellious picks music that seems like it's made by people who rebel. The kid who wants to belong picks music that appears to be made by people who are accepted. Etc. Ultimately, we all want to belong, and choose a peer group where we feel at home. Music helps us to figure out which peer group we best belong to.
2. This symbol of identity allows you to negotiate the tension between belonging and originality .
Like these guys pictured above–the Growlers, who are clearly individuals together. This desire is something that advertisers know well. Advertisers know that tweens need to a) be approved of by their little friends but b) still manage to stand out. You do this by liking a genre that your little friends like, but finding some performer or song within the genre that no one else knows about. This makes you special, but not so special as to be a total outcast. Generally, however, kids like music that reflects the people and issues that they are grappling with.
3. At some point, you get into music that reflects your values.
Like folk songstress Amanda Jo Williams, for example, whose music probably attracts listeners with values similar to hers. There is a lot of research indicating that there is a relationship between music preferences and lifestyle. The study of various subcultures has led researchers to theorize that music preferences are associated with certain values (e.g., rock with social awareness and rebelliousness, pop with certain values about gender roles and conformity, etc.). These other two scholars named Rentfrow and Gosling (2003)–no, not Ryan Gosling of the band in Silverlake and various movies and TV shows wherein unsupervised teenagers get into sexually exciting situations–determined that people who like stuff like blues, jazz, classical, and folk are more open to experiences and pretty liberal. So communicating what we like is not only a shorthand way to tell people about how much we want to belong/stand out, it also tells people about what we value.
4. Bottom line: music predicts sexual attraction.
Check this out! This study found that a woman's devotion to country music diminishes her attractiveness to a potential (male) mate; so too does a man's interest in country music make him less attractive to women. But (!) devotion to classical music and to heavy metal rock has a different effect depending on if you're a (heterosexual) man or a (heterosexual) woman. The study says, “Fascination with heavy metal rock greatly enhanced the appeal of men, but it proved detrimental to that of women.” And the reverse is true of classical music: guys dig girls who are into classical music, but not the reverse.
5. Except! (Heterosexual) men care more than (heterosexual) women.
The same study found that men are more into women who share their musical tastes than women with whom they have no shared music interests. Women, however, don't care so much. It matters little to women if a man is into the kind of music she's into. What does this mean? Our own theories: 1.) men aren't as appearance-driven as we'd like to believe. Given that musical taste might indicate class status and values, maybe musical tastes conveys something about a potential mate's worldview or ideology. Or 2) men are kind of narcissistic and insecure, all at the same time. They are so convinced of the superiority of their preferences that they think a woman is kinda dense if she'd not into what he's into, or, conversely, they 3) are all insecure manbabies and want women to validate their taste and tell them how awesome their record collection is. By the way, the guy in the picture has the world's largest record collection. He says it's worth $50,000,000. He tried to sell it for $3,000,000 and no one wanted it. In his words, “no one cares.” He was the subject of a documentary back in October, and reports are that he's still alive, and still trying to sell it. Interested?
What do you think? Would you date a guy or gal who was into the complete opposite of whatever you're into? Discuss.