The Real Alternative

Leave a comment

What your musical taste says about your personality

English: Tenori-on is an electronic musical in...

Tenori-on is an electronic musical instrument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Greenberg, University of Cambridge

We’re exposed to music for nearly 20% of our waking lives. But much of our musical experience seems to be a mystery. Why does some music bring us to tears while other pieces make us dance? Why is it that the music that we like can make others agitated? And why do some people seem to have a natural ability to play music while others have difficulty carrying a tune? Science is beginning to show that these individual differences are not just random but are, in part, due to people’s personalities.

My colleagues and I have published research showing that people’s musical preferences are linked to three broad thinking styles. Empathisers (Type E) have a strong interest in people’s thoughts and emotions. Systemisers (Type S) have a strong interest in patterns, systems and the rules that govern the world. And those who score relatively equally on empathy and systemising are classified as Type B for “balanced”.

Research from the past decade has shown that 95% of people can be classified into one of these three groups and that they predict a lot of human behaviour. For example, they can predict things such as whether someone studies maths and science, or humanities at university. For the first time, we have shown that they can predict musical behaviour, too.

Matching music with thinking style

To study this phenomenon, we conducted multiple studies with over 4,000 participants. We took data on these participants’ thinking styles and asked them to listen to and indicate their preferences for up to 50 musical excerpts, representing a wide range of genres. Across these studies, we found that empathisers preferred mellow music that had low energy, sad emotions, and emotional depth, as heard in R&B, soft rock, and singer-songwriter genres. For example, empathising was linked to preferences for “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones and Jeff Buckley’s recording of “Hallelujah”.

On the other hand, systemisers preferred more intense music, as heard in hard rock, punk and heavy metal genres. Systemisers also preferred music with intellectual depth and complexity as heard in avant-garde classical genres. For example, systemizing was linked to preferences for Alexander Scriabin’s “Etude opus 65 no 3”. Importantly, those who are Type B, had a tendency to prefer music that spans more of a range than the other two thinking styles.

In our most recent study, published in the Journal of Research of Personality, we found that people’s personality traits can also predict their musical ability, even if they don’t play an instrument. Our team worked with BBC Lab UK to recruit over 7,000 participants and assess them for five distinct personality dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism/emotionality stability. We also asked them to conduct various tasks that measured their musical ability, including remembering melodies and picking out rhythms.

We found that, next to musical training, the personality trait of openness was the strongest predictor of musical sophistication. People who score highly for openness are imaginative, have a wide range of interests, and are open to new ways of thinking and changes in their environment. Those who score low on openness (or who are “closed”) are more set in their ways, prefer routine and the familiar, and tend to have more conventional values. We also found that extroverts who are often more talkative, assertive, and excitement-seeking had greater singing abilities.

Furthermore, we could apply this even to people who did not currently play a musical instrument, meaning there are people who have a potential for musical talent but are entirely unaware of it.

Music therapy

These new findings tell us that from a person’s musical taste and ability, we can infer a range of information about their personality and the way that they think.

This research shows there are factors beyond our awareness that shape our musical experiences. We hope that these findings can be of help to teachers, parents, and clinicians. Based on information about personality, educators can ensure that children with the potential for musical talent have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Music therapists can use information about thinking style to help tailor their therapies for clients, too.

We are also interested in how knowledge gained from science can help children and adults on the autism spectrum who have difficulties with communication, as we recently wrote in the journal Empirical Musicology Review. This could also help people process emotions after experiencing a psychological trauma and when grieving a loss. In fact, initial findings from our lab suggest that people who experienced a traumatic event in childhood engage with music quite differently in adulthood than those who did not experience a trauma.

If you want to find out how you score on musical ability, preferences, and personality, you can take these tests at

The Conversation

David Greenberg, PhD candidate, psychology, University of Cambridge

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Leave a comment

Alien superstructure? Probably not scientists say

Leave a comment

Scientists playing God?

Leave a comment

How Einstein’s general theory of relativity killed off common-sense physics

David Lyth, Lancaster University

Gravity ties our bodies to planet Earth but it does not define the limits of the soaring human mind. In November 1915 – exactly one century ago – this was proven to be true when Albert Einstein, in a series of lectures at the Prussian Academy of Sciences, presented a theory that would revolutionise how we view gravity – and physics itself.

For two centuries, Newton’s remarkably simple and elegant theory of universal gravitation had seemed to explain the matter well. But, as is increasingly true for physics, simple just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Einstein’s starting point for general relativity was his theory of special relativity, published in 1905. This explained how to formulate the laws of physics in the absence of gravity. At the centre of both theories is a description of space and time that is different from the one that common sense would suggest.

The theories explain how to interpret motion between different places that are moving at constant speeds relative to each other – rather than relative to some sort of absolute ether (as Newton had assumed). While the laws of physics are universal, it says, different viewers will see the timing of events differently depending on how fast they are travelling. An event that would seem to take 1000 years when viewed from Earth may seem to take just a second for someone in a spacecraft travelling at great speed.

At the centre of Einstein’s theories is the fact that the speed of light is independent of the motion of the observer who is measuring the speed. This is strange, because common sense suggests that if you sit in your car alongside a railroad track, a train passing by will seem to be moving much faster than if you followed it in the same direction. However, if you instead sit and watch a light beam go by, it would move equally fast regardless of whether you were following it or not – a clear indication that something is wrong with common sense.

Einstein’s special and general relativity.

The implication of this theory is that we need to give up the idea that there is a universal time, and accept that the time registered by a clock depends on its trajectory as it moves through the universe. This also means that time passes more slowly when you’re going fast, meaning a twin going to space will age more slowly than their sibling back on Earth. This “twin paradox” may seem like a mathematical quirk but it was actually experimentally verified in 1971 in an experiment taking atomic clocks on commercial flights.

Special relativity works only for inertial frames moving relative to one another if they are moving at constant speed – it cannot describe what happens if they are accelerating. Einstein wondered how to expand it to include such acceleration and allow for gravity, which causes acceleration and is, after all, everywhere.

He realised that the effect of gravity disappears if one doesn’t try to overcome it. He imagined people in an elevator whose cable had broken in free fall and worked out that since the objects would either float motionless or at constant speed, the people wouldn’t feel gravity. But nowadays we know this is true as we have seen it ourselves in people at the international space station. In both cases there are no forces counteracting the effect of gravity and the people experience no gravity.

Curved space-time.

Einstein also realised that the effect of gravity is the same as the effect of acceleration; driving off at high speed pushes us backward, just as if gravity were pulling us. These two clues led Einstein to general relativity. Whereas Newton had seen gravity as a force propagated between bodies, Einstein described is as pseudo force experienced because the entire interwoven fabric of space and time bends around a massive object.

Einstein himself said his path was far from easy. He wrote that “in all my life I have not laboured nearly so hard, and I have become imbued with great respect for mathematics, the subtler part of which I had in my simple-mindedness regarded as pure luxury until now.”

The evidence

As soon as Einstein discovered general relativity, he realised that it explains the failure of Newton’s theory to account for the orbit of Mercury. The orbit is not quite circular which means that there is a point at which it is closest to the sun. Newton’s theory predicts that this point is fixed, but observation shows that it slowly rotates around the sun and Einstein found that general relativity correctly describes the rotation.

Einstein’s general relativity

“I was beside myself with joyous excitement,” he wrote a few months later. Since then, general relativity has passed many observational tests with flying colours.

You are using general relativity whenever you invoke the GPS system to find out your position on the Earth’s surface. That system emits radio signals from 24 satellites and the GPS receiver in your phone or car analyses three or more of these signals to figure out your position using general relativity. If you had used Newton’s theory, the GPS system would have given the wrong position.

But while general relativity works well to describe the physical world on large scales, quantum mechanics has emerged as the most successful theory for tiny particles such as those making up an atom. Just like the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics is counter intuitive. Whether it is possible to unite the two remains to be seen but it is unlikely to reintroduce common sense into physics.

The Conversation

David Lyth, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Lancaster University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Leave a comment

Parapsychology: when did science give up on the paranormal?

Leave a comment

Meet the Former Pentagon Scientist Who Says Psychics Can Help American Spies

Leave a comment

Women stress and the mind body connection

Surprising as it may seem, the intimate connection between the mind and the body was not well understood until the closing decades of the last century. In the early 1970’s, for example, a scientific research paper published in Scientific American was one of the first studies to scientifically investigate this connection. That particular paper studied what happened in the body when the mind was in a meditative state. The paper found that as the mind settled down with a specific, effective practice of meditation, the body gained a profoundly deep state of rest. Respiration settled significantly. Stress hormones in the blood were reduced. Skin resistance increased (an indicator of increased physiological relaxation). The paper was a landmark work in the scientific recognition of the mind/body connection.

Also in the 1970’s we were all becoming familiar with the concept of stress. Stress had been with us for a long time of course, but through the work of scientists such as Hans Selye stress was becoming a defined process. Hans Selye, an endocrinologist, became widely recognized as an expert in the field of stress management. Selye defined stress as the body’s nonspecific response to a demand placed on it. For example, if we are home alone and a strange noise is heard in another room, our heart rate may increase and probably our blood pressure too, adrenaline shoots up and our senses become heightened. These physiological changes are the result of what scientists call the fight or flight response. Such ancient mechanisms in the human physiology are meant to prepare one to either ‘fight’ in a challenging situation (e.g. the tiger in the path before us) or to remove oneself from danger. While these mechanisms may be useful in a specific challenge, occurring in the physiology on a sustained basis they can create the basis for a myriad of health problems.

Understanding stress and the close connection between mind and body spawned another level of discovery about health and disease in terms of psychosomatic disorders. Psychosomatic disorders result from the influence that the mind has over physical processes. A psychosomatic disorder is one in which a physical disease is thought to be caused, or made worse, by mental factors. Such physical diseases—including skin disorders, cardiovascular problems, respiratory disorders, and disturbances of the nervous system including multiple sclerosis—can be particularly aggravated by mental factors such as stress and anxiety.

Women are particularly susceptible to stress. Their lives are challenged by special stressors. Women often care for others much more than they care for themselves. They may push themselves hard in the juggling of professional and personal lives. Stress in women is also often caused by the constant array of hormonal changes occurring in the female physiology. It is important for women to understand how to maintain balance: how to nurture the connection between mind and body, and to avoid the accumulation of stress that can break this vital connection. To prevent the onset of psychosomatic disorders and to avoid the deleterious effects of stress, women can only gain by fostering a healthy mind/body connection.

-Lesley Goldman

Stress Reduction

Read More: Women stress and the mind body connection – Stress articles – Messaggiamo.Com


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 867 other followers