There is an issue alive and well today which needs to be addressed and put to an end. I am referring to the split between nature Vs. nurture, one of the most hotly contested issues in history. This paper is within the vein of that same debate, specifically our musical preferences being based on either biology or psychology. There are numerous proponents and opponents for both sides. And although it may seem a like a daunting task to undertake. It is however easy to understand once one can see the commonly held opinions from facts. Although I agree biology does seem play a role in musical preference it is predominantly psychology that determines our musical preferences.
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It seems that there is a strong connection between what we prefer and what we are use to. It’s for this reason that radio stations tend to play the same song over and over again on the radio. They like psychologists understand that repetition/familiarity is one of the key steps to getting people to like a song. In stark contrast to the idea of ingrained biology this marketing strategy works as a way to advertise and conform the listener to a preferred musical-type. As social psychologist Robert Zajonc notes:
The mere exposure effect confirms that exposure to a stimulus can increase positive affect towards it, across many types of stimuli perceptual fluency theory provides some explanation for the mere exposure effect. The theory asserts that the number of times a person has been exposed to a stimulus is positively related to the ease with which it comprehended, leading people to like it more simply because it is easy to process.
The components of the stimuli can be related back to the ideas of biology. However, it is important to note that this is a prime example of biology being the catalyst/conduit, which allows for psychology to function but not the controller. With that being said it is clear that musical preference is often not driven by choice but rather driven by familiarity.
Another important component that defines our preferences is age. We all know the feeling of nostalgia and this is feeling can often hold us into what music we prefer. Petr Janta out of the University of California conducted a study on nostalgia and emotional connections as she states:
Participants listened to randomly selected excerpts of popular music and rated how nostalgic each song made them feel. Nostalgia was stronger to the extent that a song was autobiographically salient, arousing, familiar, and elicited a greater number of positive, negative, and mixed emotions. These effects were moderated by individual differences (nostalgia proneness, mood state, dimensions of the Affective Neurosciences Personality Scale, and factors of the Big Five Inventory). Nostalgia proneness predicted stronger nostalgic experiences, even after controlling for other individual difference measures. The Sadness dimension of the Affective Neurosciences Personality Scale and Neuroticism of the Big Five Inventory predicted nostalgia proneness. Nostalgia was associated with both joy and sadness, whereas non-nostalgic and non-autobiographical experiences were associated with irritation.
This explains that if something seems unfamiliar musically it will often come off as alien to our brains. This is why older people generally only listen to music they grew up with while complaining about music of today. Nostalgia holds a special place in time to people, however it is constricting as well. This is certainly a determining factor in musical preference for it shapes the very way we perceive music to be. This perception then reflects what we will prefer even it it’s not the same song but...