What Causes our Preference for Certain Styles of Music?

Think about the song you love the most. What do you find appealing about it? Does it make you want to dance? Maybe it improves your mood or expresses an idea that resonates with you. Whatever the reason, your response to that song is to turn up the volume and listen.

Have you ever shared your favorite song with a friend or family member? Did they listen to it and have the same reaction? Maybe they did. Or maybe the song didn’t have the same effect on them. In fact, you might discover that your musical taste differs greatly from that of others.

What determines our preference for certain styles of music? Your decision to listen to rap instead of country or jazz instead of R&B may seem simple to you. But if you delve deeper, it becomes more complex. Your music preferences are influenced by various factors.

It may not come as a surprise that your personality plays a role in your musical taste. Would you describe yourself as calm or energetic? Quiet or outspoken? Often, individuals gravitate towards music that aligns with their personality. While you might choose to explore new music from time to time, you are most likely to repeatedly listen to songs that resonate with your unique traits.

Age is also a contributing factor. Your favorite songs are probably not the same as those preferred by your adult family members. The music you listen to during your childhood and teenage years shapes your preferences for the rest of your life. However, it is also common for these preferences to evolve as you grow older.

Of course, your environment also has an impact on the styles of music you enjoy. The culture you grow up in can influence both your preferences and the songs and musicians you are exposed to. This is another factor that can cause your preferences to change. When people move to new places or meet new individuals, they often encounter different styles of music that can shape their taste.

Do you listen to the same songs every day? Probably not! Your music choices can change based on your mood. One day, you may prefer quiet songs, while the next day, you may crave loud, heart-pumping beats. These choices can be influenced by your mood and the image you wish to convey to the outside world.

All of these factors can influence the qualities you seek in the songs you listen to. A study conducted in 2012 on music preferences identified five characteristics in music that may impact our choices. These are Mellow, Urban, Sophisticated, Intense, and Campestral (MUSIC). Would you use any of these words to describe your favorite song?

Do you have a unique taste in music? It is perfectly normal for everyone’s preferences to differ. If you and a friend have different tastes, that’s okay. Remember to always respect others’ choices—after all, you expect the same from them!

Give It a Try

Are you ready to continue learning? Try one or more of the activities below with the assistance of a friend or family member.

Exploring Your Music Preferences

Here are a few activities to help you dive into your music preferences and discover more about what you enjoy:

1. Start a Music Journal

Keep a weekly music journal where you write down the titles of songs that you really enjoyed during that week. Include a brief description of each song and what you liked about it. At the end of each month, take a look at your entries and see if you notice any patterns. Did the songs align with your mood or what was happening in your life?

2. Discuss Your Favorite Song

Talk to a friend or family member about your favorite song. Share what you love about it and why it resonates with you. Then, ask them to help you create a social media post about your favorite song. Remember to tag us @wonderopolis when you share your musical taste!

3. Create Your Own Music

Do you enjoy making music? Explore your creativity by mixing a new song on Incredibox. Experiment with different combinations of musical elements and see what you come up with. Once you have a favorite creation, share it with a friend or family member. How would you describe this song to others? Challenge yourself to come up with five descriptive words.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201909/6-common-factors-influencing-your-music-preferences (accessed 11 Jan. 2021)
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/our-musical-tastes-might-be-shaped-by-our-culture-scientists-say-2016-7 (accessed 11 Jan. 2021)
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138530/ (accessed 11 Jan. 2021)
  • https://learnersdictionary.com/ (accessed 11 Jan. 2021)


1. Why do our musical preferences vary so much?

Our musical preferences vary because they are influenced by a variety of factors such as our upbringing, cultural background, personal experiences, and individual personality traits. These factors shape our perception of music and can determine whether we enjoy certain styles or not.

2. How does our brain process different styles of music?

Our brain processes different styles of music in different ways. The auditory cortex, located in the temporal lobe, is responsible for processing sound. When we listen to music, the auditory cortex analyzes the pitch, rhythm, and melody. Additionally, other areas of the brain, such as the limbic system, are involved in processing emotions and can influence our liking or disliking of certain music styles.

3. Can our musical preferences change over time?

Yes, our musical preferences can change over time. As we grow and experience new things, our tastes and preferences in music may evolve. Exposure to different genres, new artists, and life events can broaden our musical horizons and lead to a change in preferences. Additionally, our emotional state and personal growth can also impact our musical preferences.

4. Are our musical preferences influenced by social factors?

Yes, our musical preferences can be influenced by social factors. Our family, friends, and peer groups can introduce us to new styles of music and shape our preferences through shared experiences and cultural influences. The media, including TV, radio, and streaming platforms, also plays a significant role in exposing us to different genres and artists, which can influence our musical preferences.

5. Can we learn to appreciate music styles we initially dislike?

Yes, it is possible to learn to appreciate music styles we initially dislike. By actively listening to and exploring different genres, we can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the unique elements and qualities of each style. Additionally, learning about the historical and cultural context of certain music styles can provide a new perspective and enhance our appreciation for them.

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