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Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study



If there seems to be an air of pretension among aficionados of jazz and classical music, psychological research is giving them good reason.

A new study published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences suggests that those who prefer instrumental music tend to be more intelligent.

Study author Elena Racevska, a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, became interested in how musical preference is tied to personality traits as she learned about the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, which presumes that more intelligent individuals seek more novel experiences compared to less intelligent people.

“After reading Kanazawa’s papers, one of which was on the relationship between intelligence and musical preferences, we decided to further test his hypothesis using a different set of predictors — namely, a different type of intelligence test (i.e. a nonverbal measure), and the uses of music questionnaire,” says Racevska. “We also measured a number of variables likely to have an effect in this relationship, such as taking part in extra-curricular music education, its type and duration.”

Racevska and her colleagues surveyed 467 Croatian high school students, and found that those with higher scores on the intelligence test were associated with a preference for genres such as jazz, classical, big band and ambient/electronica.

Researchers point out that gender, age, level of education, income and other factors also play into the results.

“Future studies could focus on untangling the relationship between complexity and novelty in shaping preferences — complexity of vocalisation is preferred by many species, which could mean that it is evolutionarily familiar,” says Recevska.

She suggests studies of how musical tastes “chance throughout developmental stages of human life,” and how “societal pressures and peer relationships” play a role. Revevksa adds, “A cross-cultural study could examine and control for influences of culturally specific ways of experiencing music, and other music-related behaviours.”

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