Sharing the same taste in music always makes for a simple and straightforward conversation starter. Anyone who’s ever dipped their toe into the dating scene has felt that surge of relief when they discover their potential amour likes rocking to Alice Cooper too, or also went to an Evanescence concert aged 15. It gives you some immediate common ground, and makes talking together instantly easier.
But its effect on us goes much deeper. For most, music is an emotional tool – one that moulds our outlook, transforms our experiences, and gives us an outlet when we need one. It evolves as we do, progressing from the angst of our favourite teenage anthems through to the crooning sympathies that comfort us post-break up as we get older.
At its most fundamental level, it can even act as a reflection of us: what we feel, what we think, and how we relate to the world around us. Maybe that explains what we’ve long suspected – that we tend to connect most strongly with those who have similar tastes in music…
The science to support the theory
Lots of people over the years have shared a similar belief: that they instantly connect with others who have compatible music tastes. In 2014, Peter Rentfrow, of the University of Cambridge, and Samuel Gosling, of the University of Texas, decided to test this out, by seeing how important music is in our relationships.
Looking at patterns of conversation, the two researchers and their teams discovered that many people use their musical preferences as a means of conveying intimate information about their personalities, with individuals apparently considering their preferences for music to be more revealing than their preferences for books, clothing, food, movies, or television shows.
In a study that paired up 60 college-age participants, they discovered that music was the most commonly discussed topic amongst people getting to know each other – a reality that most of us could anecdotally back up.
Not only this, but it continued to be a popular subject to bond over even as the study progressed, and talk of other topics, such as favoured movies, books, and sports decreased. They thus concluded that music conveys “consistent and accurate messages about personalities”.
Influencing our perceptions
Anyone who has ever been on a first date with someone they’ve met through a dating app like Badoo will know that music is a topic which invariably arises as the evening progresses, but according to the science, we don’t use it purely as a commonality to bond over; it also influences our perception of new acquaintances.
This is likely because our preferred music genres have been proven to correlate with our personalities. This was evidenced in an earlier study performed by Heriot-Watt University, which showed that people who like classic rock, for example, are usually very different in temperament to those with a preference for bubble-gum pop.
So, the next time you’re looking for potential romantic interests online or in the flesh, you now know how to start the conversation: just ask them what music they’re a fan of. That all important question might just help you to find your perfect partner…