How what we consume digitally aids in shaping our identity

Ana Mamula
April 21, 2022
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

C/O Rodion Kutsaev (Unsplash)

Why our music taste and favourite movie genre say a lot more about our identities than we think 

I am a big fan of indie music. Oftentimes, I’ll play my music around someone and expect that they’ll hate this unique style of music. However, sometimes I’m proven wrong, realizing they actually love it and I’ve always wondered why.  

Why do some people like certain types of music and others do not? Why are there shy individuals who love loud electronic dance music while some daredevils may despise horror movies? 

Music, movies, books and all things art or digital that we consume are a key important factor in many people’s lives. So what is it that makes it so meaningful? Is it our identities that are just attracted to certain styles or do we become modelled by what we consume?  

Is it our identities that are just attracted to certain styles or do we become modelled by what we consume?  

The latest study comes from a team at the University of Cambridge, led by doctoral candidate David Greenberg and researcher Simon Baron-Cohen whose theory states that brain types can be classified by being empathic — responding more to the emotion of others— or systemizing — analysing rules or patterns in the world around them.  

With this information, they completed a study with 4,000 participants and were asked to complete a questionnaire prior to determining their results of empathetic and systemizing thinking. Then, participants listened to 50 mystical pieces from 26 genres and rated the pieces. 

According to their results, an empathizer might gravitate towards unpretentious styles like country or folk and mellower music like soft rock, whereas systemizers might gravitate towards intense music like punk or heavy metal. 

Surprise! Researchers have also found a link between your favourite movie genre and one’s personality. For example, those who enjoy comedy tend to be more open. This can be explained by the fact that comedy movies are often more original. They contain humour, their plot lines are unpredictable and they challenge conventional ways of thinking.  

With horror for example, they found that individuals were less agreeable, less extroverted and more neurotic. They also found that those who hate horror are actually more agreeable and prefer a movie that displays images of kindness and warmth. 

I have always found this information to be immensely fascinating, but I still wondered why? How do we even like something in the very first place? Why do we like things? 

Although it is a tricky question to answer as some individuals just like things due to familiarity or just liking it for no reason but liking it, there is some evidence to support one’s preferences. In his book You May Also Like, Tom Vanderbilt looks to answer this exact question. 

Vanderbilt finds that there are multiple factors that influence what we like. According to Vanderbilt, our liking for something is not a singular proposition. Instances such as liking certain foods or disliking some people is a result of one’s exposure, culture and personality.  

Vanderbilt finds that there are multiple factors that influence what we like. According to Vanderbilt, our liking for something is not a singular proposition. Instances such as liking certain foods or disliking some people is a result of one’s exposure, culture and personality.  

What one has to remember is at the end of the day we can only theorise, as the topic being researched is so much deeper than one might assume that we simply cannot answer it in the way we want to.  

While psychology can help us understand some of the reasons behind our interests, it cannot definitively characterize every unique factor or experience that makes us all who are. Regardless, I find it extremely interesting and definitely think this field of study — and its application to the music we like — should be talked about more.  

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