Rock, jazz, rap, country… Genetics could explain our musical tastes

Rock, jazz, rap, country... Genetics could explain our musical tastes

Everything suggests that music is a language understood by everyone. But the scientific community does not know how to explain why we prefer certain musical genres to others. A recent study claims that our preferences in terms of the fourth art could be written in our DNA.

An international research team, led by Giacomo Bignardi of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, wanted to determine the extent to which genetics influence musical enjoyment. To do this, she looked at the musical tastes of more than 9,000 twins registered in the Swedish Twin Register.

Do real and fraternal twins share the same musical tastes?

Some are identical and have the same genetic capital, while others only share half. In this last case, we then speak of “false” twins. Whether “real” or “fake”, all twins grew up in the same families. They therefore evolved in the same environment during their childhood, which facilitates the work of researchers to determine the influence of genetics in musical preferences.

Study participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing the pleasure they derive from listening to music. They were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed with statements such as “when I share music with someone, I feel a special connection with that person” et “in my free time I hardly listen to music“, according to New Scientist magazine.

Genetics plays a role but is not everything!

It appears that genetics seems to play an important role in the degree of pleasure that music provides. “Identical” twins gave more similar answers to the questionnaire than siblings who share only 50% of their DNA. Researchers have therefore put forward the idea that, when it comes to music, we are much more subject to the dictatorship of genes than we imagine.

To support this hypothesis, the researchers tested participants' ability to distinguish between different melodies, rhythms and tones. Indeed, previous research has shown the existence of genetic predispositions to musical ear. Giacomo Bignardi and his colleagues found that the pleasure of listening to music is not based solely on genetics. “Our results do not argue in favor of a single (genetic) dimension of musical pleasure. On the contrary, these results are consistent with the fact that musical pleasure is built on genetically interconnected but partially distinct parts“, they write in their study, published on the pre-publication site bioRxiv.

The conclusions of this study are surprising, although they must be taken with caution. We must not forget that our music preferences are strongly influenced by our culture and even our country of residence. However, they seem to be governed much more by our DNA than we previously thought. Perhaps this explains why music has such power over us.

The benefits of music on our brain

Slide: The benefits of music on our brain