I don’t like music: what’s the point?

Summary: A new study explores aversion to music, finding an aversion to music may facilitate the expression of identity and help delineate social groups.

Source: Max Planck Institute

So, a metal head shows up at a techno party… quite unlikely, isn’t it? Law. Disliking certain genres of music is just as constitutive of personal taste as liking others; and because it influences behaviors related to music, it has implications for our daily lives.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, have studied some of the possible reasons why people dislike music.

Their study has just been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

With very few exceptions, previous research on musical tastes has focused on preferences for certain genres of music. Now, for the first time, a team of scientists has explicitly studied music aversion. In in-depth interviews with 21 participants representing five age groups, they uncovered the specific reasons for their individual dislikes.

“The most frequently mentioned type of dislike was musical style, followed by artist and genre,” says lead author Julia Merrill. “When we looked more closely at participants’ justifications, we were able to identify five main points of reference for describing music dislikes: the music itself, the lyrics, the performance, the artist and the people who listen to it. .”

The researchers categorized these justifications into three categories: first, object-related reasons, such as musical composition or lyrics; second, subject-related reasons, such as emotional or bodily effects or self-image discrepancies; and thirdly, social reasons, which relate to an individual’s social environment and judgments of taste common to him (in-group) or to other groups of which an individual does not feel a member (out- group).

Disliking certain types of music is crucial to personal taste. Credit: MPI for empirical aesthetics

In addition to the reasons why they dislike music, participants described specific reactions they have when confronted with music they dislike. These included emotional, bodily, and social reactions, ranging from leaving the room to breaking social contact.

While previous research has shown that music aversion has important social functions, this study expands the range of justifications to include music-related and personal reasons. Musical dislikes can, for example, serve to maintain a good mood, facilitate the expression of identity or help to delimit a social group. They thus fulfill functions similar to musical preferences, but are expressed in a less overt and more indirect way.

About this music and neuroscience research news

Author: Ina Wittmann
Source: Max Planck Institute
Contact: Ina Wittmann – Max Planck Institute
Picture: Image is credited to MPI for Empirical Aesthetics

Original research: Free access.
Justifications and Functions of Hated Music: An In-Depth Interview Study” by Julia Merrill et al. PLOS ONE

See also

It shows a brain

Abstract

Justifications and Functions of Hated Music: An In-Depth Interview Study

Context and objectives

With few exceptions, musical tastes have been researched via tastes or preferences for certain types of music. The present study focuses on disliked music and takes a broad approach to cover explanatory strategies related to personal dislikes.

Methods

In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 participants in five age groups. Respondents were asked to prepare a list of the music they disliked and, for each item, they were asked the reasons for their dislike. To ensure that the complexity and range of participants’ dislikes and justifications were captured in the analysis, a structuring content analysis as a primarily theory-driven approach was combined with the creation of inductive categories to from maintenance data.

Results

The most frequently mentioned type of dislike was musical style, followed by artist and genre. Five main points of reference have been identified to describe music aversions: the music itself, the lyrics, the performance, the artist and the people who listen to it. The justifications identified for disliked music fell into three broad categories: object-related reasons, such as aspects of musical composition, aesthetic dichotomies, or lyrics; subject-related reasons, such as emotional or bodily effects, or self-image discrepancies; social reasons, which refer to its social environment and to the judgments of taste that are common to it (in-group) or to other groups of which the participants do not feel part (out-group). Along with justifications for hated music, participants described specific reactions when confronted with their hated music, such as emotional, physical, and social reactions.

conclusion

Although music aversions have previously been shown to serve important social functions, the present study extends the justifications to music-related and self-related reasons. Musical dislikes perform functions similar to loved music, such as maintaining good humor, expressing and constructing identity, strengthening group cohesion as well as social distinction.

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