Our Favorite Song Lyrics Could Reveal the Kind of Partners We’ll Be, Study Finds
These lines from 1994’s Chura Ke Dil Mera — “Kisi mod par main tumko pukaaroon, bahaana koi bana to na loge… Nayi hasraton ki nayi sej par tum, naya phool koi saja to na loge…” — sound embarrassingly insecure. Roughly, they translate to, “If I ever need you, will you, will make excuses to avoid me? What if you desire someone else more, and replace me with them in your bed?” But is there any point in dwelling on the lyrics of a song from almost three decades ago? Turns out, yes, kind of — especially if it happens to be among the favorite songs of one’s potential romantic partner.
Published in Personal Relationships, a new study found that the lyrics of one’s favorite songs could point to their attachment style. The attachment theory explores the different ways in which we bond with others and tries to explain why we behave the way we do, in relationships — especially long-term ones. The attachment styles proposed within the framework of this theory include secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized.
As part of the present study, the researchers recruited around 500 participants with an average age of 34. The participants underwent assessments to determine their personality traits and attachment styles. Then, they submitted a list of seven to 15 songs about relationships, which were evaluated by the research assistants charged with categorizing their plots as reflective of either secure, anxious, or secure attachment styles.
Upon analyzing the data gathered about the participants’ personalities and attachment styles thus — and comparing it against their favorite songs — the researchers found that people enjoy music that resonates the most with their respective attachment styles. For instance, they observed that people with avoidant attachment styles gravitated toward songs whose lyrics put forth analogous attitudes.
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Past research, too, has found links between one’s personality traits and their choice of music — in terms of genre, not lyrical content. A 2015 study explored if one’s music preferences can provide insights into how empathetic they are.
According to David Greenberg — a psychologist, musician, and researcher at the University of Cambridge, who led a different 2016 study analyzing the relationship between one’s music preferences and personality traits — whether music influences personality, though, is a question that “keeps us researchers up at night.”
The authors of the present study, however, appear to be leaning more towards the idea that our music choices are simply a manifestation of our personalities, and not the other way around. “[I]ndividuals like music with narratives that matched what may be considered validating and self-expressive themes about relationships,” they noted in the study, clarifying that one’s choice of music didn’t influence their attachment style, but one’s attachment style did have a bearing on their taste in music.
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However, it is pertinent to note that one’s music preferences may also stem from what a certain song represents in their memory. “There is evidence that structural elements of music get physically tied to our autobiographical memories. Musical reminiscence bump is so powerful because we attach music to particularly emotional times,” Catherine Loveday, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Westminster, told BBC.
So, perhaps, listening to a song we associate with the rush of our first kiss can be one of our favorites because of the nostalgia it induces — not because the lyrics necessarily appeal to us. “Many of us are inclined to favor the music of our youth. Our formative experiences when young had a soundtrack, which may explain the popularity of classic rock radio stations,” Lara Ronan, a neurologist, had written in Psychology Today.
Even though researchers are yet to explore a lot more about what our taste in music reveals about us, what we know for sure is that there’s a lot more to music than what meets the eye — or, in this case, ears. As Greenberg notes, “The idea that music is solely entertainment — or even just a pure[ly] aesthetic experience — is very misguided. Music is a form of language. It’s a part of human evolution…”
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