Music listening habits give insight into human nature

New research has shown how important music is in people’s lives – and how it leads them to be their own personal DJs.

JCU psychology lecturer Dr Amanda Krause conducted a study on people’s relationship to music with Dr Solange Glasser and Dr Margaret Osborne from the University of Melbourne.

She said previous research found people spend up to 18 hours per week listening to music, and more than 2.6 hours per day.

Dr Krause said in that research, only 2.5 per cent of participants said music was “unimportant” to them, compared to 54 per cent who said they “love” or are “fanatical” about music.

“Music can create meaningful, lasting memories and my own research has shown how music features prominently in people’s autobiographical memories,” said Dr Krause.

She said that given the prominence of music in people’s lives, it’s important for psychologists to understand people’s reasons for listening to music and their perceptions of the value of music in their lives.

“The main question we had in this research was about why people value and listen to music. But we flipped the usual question on its head – instead of asking why/when people like to listen to music, we asked them about when they don’t want to listen,” said Dr Krause.

She said that almost one third of the more than 300 participants stated that music listening was an activity they valued and appreciated because of its beauty or the enjoyment they received from listening.

Two-thirds of the participants explicitly stated that there were times they did not want to listen to music due to the interference that music presented to an activity in which they wished to focus or concentrate, such as studying.

“So, even though a handful of participants stated there was never a time they didn’t want to hear music, the study’s findings support the notion that listening to music may not always be preferred at all times,” said Dr Krause.

The research team says the inverse relationship of value and engagement shows how people act as ‘personal DJs’.

“Previous research speaks to how people are aware and make choices about what type music they need to hear in different situations and at different times.

“This study adds that people are also aware of when they prefer to listening to music – that it needs to fit the listener’s purpose and the situation,” said Dr Krause.

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