Humans and other animals

Some people lack the ability to get pleasure from music

NPR: Strange But True: Music Doesn’t Make Some People Happy

Some people lack the ability to get pleasure from music, researchers say, even though they enjoy food, sex and other great joys in life.

Psychologists at the University of Barcelona stumbled upon this while they were screening participants for a study by using responses to music to gauge emotion. They were surprised to find that music wasn’t important at all to about 5 percent of the people — they said they didn’t bob up and down to tunes they liked, didn’t get weepy, didn’t get chills. It was like they couldn’t feel the music at all.

Then they asked the participants to bring in music they liked. “The first surprise is that some of the participants had trouble bringing music from home,” says Josep Marco-Pallares, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Barcelona and senior author of the study. These people didn’t have any music — no MP3s, no CDs. No Spotify or Pandora.

I wonder if I might be in this 5%. I don’t have no music, but I definitely have a relatively small, narrow selection. What music I do like I tend not to play very often either. I listen to a lot of podcasts instead, or nothing at all when I need to concentrate. Most of my favourite music dates back to when I was a teenager and used to listen to a lot more.

I think music is something I listen to when I’m in a certain mood, not something that easily alters my mood.

Cassette icon designed by Jasmine Jones from the Noun Project

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