New study reveals link between musical taste and age

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Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath is the digital editor & staff writer of BBC Music...

Rosie Pentreath
, Updated 23rd October 2013

Researchers at Cambridge University have identified five categories of taste over a lifetime

study links musical taste with ageA new study by the psychology department at Cambridge University has found that musical taste is directly linked to age.

For the first time, five main categories have been identified, spanning a person’s lifetime. In addition the study has found that people are likely to disengage with certain genres as they grow older.

Explaining the impetus behind the study, senior lecturer in psychology Dr Jason Rentfrow stated: ‘There is a tendency for young people to prefer music that their parents cannot stand or find obnoxious, so there must be some developmental changes that take place as we get older.’

From teenagers seeking an identity through punk and metal during an ‘intense’ stage, young adults go through a ‘contemporary’ electronic and R&B phase before settling into a more relaxed period of ‘emotionally positive’ music when raising a family.

According to the study it is later in life that audiences turn to classical music and jazz to suit a more ‘sophisticated’ palette before being content to enjoy ‘unpretentious’ country and folk, no longer adhering to peer pressure in the final stage.

‘The project started with a common conception that musical taste does not evolve after young adulthood’, explains Arielle Bonneville-Roussy who led the study. ‘Most academic research to date supported this claim, but we were not convinced … we were able to find very robust age trends in musical taste.’

The study, which has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, was taken over a ten-year period and interpreted the listening habits of more than 250,000 people.

Contributor profile

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath

Rosie Pentreath is the digital editor & staff writer of BBC Music...

Rosie Pentreath