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The Psychometrics Centre

Cambridge Judge Business School

A study carried out by Arielle Bonneville-Roussy and Dr Jason Rentfrow in The Psychometrics Centre examined the question of how our engagement with music changes over the decades. Data from two large cross-sectional studies involving more than a quarter of a million individuals from the database were used to investigate age differences in musical attitudes and preferences from adolescence through middle age. There were several interesting findings:

Age trends in musical engagement

  1. the importance attributed to music declines with age,
  2. young people listen to music significantly more often than do middle-aged adults, and
  3. young people listen to music in a wide variety of contexts, whereas adults listen to music primarily in private contexts.

Age trends in musical preferences

  1. At all ages musical preferences can be conceptualized as 5-dimensional,the five dimensions being mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated, intense and contemporary.
  2. preference for intense and contemporary music decreases with age, whereas preferences for unpretensious and sophisticated music increases
  3. age trends in musical preferences are closely associated with personality. 

Overall, the findings suggest that musical preferences are subject to a variety of developmental influences throughout the life span. To find out more see the news item on the University of Cambridge website, or click here to see the original article, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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