Everyone has their own unique taste or preference of music; some like classical more than rock, and others prefer pop over alternative. These preferences can in some ways provide us with an insight into a person’s nature and tendencies, and by observing a person’s musical preferences we may be able to evaluate mental health and emotional vulnerability, and potentially use music as a treatment. Music serves many functions in our society, but the most important function of listening to music is mood management. People generally select music to match their mood or current situation. If someone has suffered a loss, they may choose to listen to more upbeat and happy music to lighten their mood, or if they are looking for comfort, they may listen to more somber music (Ter Bogt 157).
For adolescents, music can function as a tool to satisfy social, emotional, and developmental needs. It can provide a sense of togetherness and understanding if they are feeling stressed or alone. The film, Our Nation: A Korean Punk Community, tells the story of a club called Drug. This was a club that created a space for rock, alternative and grunge bands to perform.
For many of the youth in this society, Drug was a safe haven where they could go to escape the mundane reality of their everyday lives. One boy interviewed in the film stated, “It was an incredible discovery. For Korea to have anything like Drug, it was such an oasis type place” (Tangherlini). With the stress of school, social life, and university entrance exams, teens and young adults sought an outlet where they could relax and have fun.
The music they listened to here was therapeutic in a way, and by saying the the club is an “oasis” this shows how special and important this place was to these young adults. The club and the music created there provided an environment where these teens are able to express themselves and have a good time.PREFERENCE FOR HEAVY MUSIC Researchers often look to heavy music such as metal, rock, and rap because these genres have been proven to be favored by individuals who exhibit mental instability, but they often neglect those individuals who have a preference for lighter more upbeat music or no music preference at all. While not all people who prefer heavy music over light music exhibit mental instability, there is a correlation. In the past, only heavy music was analyzed to determine its relation with mental health, but a recent study explored various music preferences, or lack thereof, and how they may indicate mental and emotional stability. Heavy music is known to have messages that usually revolve around hypermasculinity and intense emotions.
According to a study, “adolescents preferring heavy music have more sympathetic views of suicide, homicide, and Satanism, and they exhibit more anger and emotional problems thank those without such a preference” (Wass et al.). These adolescents may prefer the type of music because it mirrors the emotions that they feel and gives them a sense of validation that others feel this way as well. Research shows that this is, in fact, true, and that there are a few other reasons that people may prefer heavy music over light music.
The article, Music Preferences, Personality Style, and Developmental Issues of Adolescents,” Canadian psychologists, Schwartz and Fouts, state: Adolescents may use heavy music to regulate their emotions in at least 3 ways. First, heavy music may serve to distract listeners with external stimulation, thus escaping or avoiding uncomfortable and unwanted moods and feelings. Second, by seeking validation for what they think and feel about themselves, others, and society, it assures them that they are not emotionally alone. Third, one psychologist suggests that heavy music can serve a cathartic or calming effect, and effect that relieves unhappiness, anger, or anxiety (Schwartz and Fouts 206). Essentially, Schwartz and Fouts conclude that heavy music is not all bad, and in some cases can actually be beneficial to listen to. For those with mental instabilities such as depression or anxiety, this type of music may provide them with a sense of comfort and validation. Instead of priming for suicidal thoughts, heavy music may be a way to soothe these individuals’ minds and act as a treatment for their situation. THE CORRELATION The type of music one listens to correlates with that individual’s mental stability.
Felicity Baker, the Music Therapy Program Director at the University of Queensland, and William Bor, the Director of Mater Centre for Service Research in Mental Heath at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, have curated a body of research that supports the idea that music can tell us a significant amount about a person’s emotional wellbeing. They state, “Heavy metal music and rap music correlate with a range of antisocial and other behaviour. While the research does not suggest that music causes such behaviours . . . music preference is indicative of an underlying emotional disturbance or vulnerability” (Baker and Bor 286). They concluded that while heavy metal music may not directly cause suicide, it “primed implicit cognitions related to suicide” (Baker and Bor 285).
Essentially they declare that one’s preference for heavy metal or rap music could be an indication of mental instability, and when such violent music is coupled with the pre-existing mental issues, the results can be tragic. IMPLICATIONS The article “The Impact of Rock Videos and Music with Suicidal Content on Thoughts and Attitudes about Suicide,” by Robin A. Rustad, presents two experiments done to determine how legitimate the connection between music and suicide is. The experiments involved showing participants a rock video that did or did not contain a suicide.
After watching the video, the individuals were asked to complete a writing exercise and their writing was then analyzed. In the second experiment, participants were subject to listening to and reading the lyrics of a song with suicidal content. After this they were asked to complete the same writing exercise as the first experiment.
The findings showed that those who listened to or watched music videos with suicidal lyrics wrote more stories with suicidal content. While this does show that music can have an immediate effect on our perceptions, it does not guarantee that after listening to a violent song we will go mimic the violence that was just heard. However, just as Baker and Bor state, when people with pre-existing mental instability and subjected solely to violent music, they are more likely to act on these feelings that those without mental issues. In turn, the results could be potentially devastating. PREFERENCE FOR LIGHT MUSIC Research has centered around heavy music and its effects on the human mind, but little attention has been given to light music and its implications. The genres categorized as “light” include pop, teen pop, and dance, and the themes in these genres generally revolve around relationships, identity, and social tendencies. Since little to no research has been done to correlate light music listening to a specific personality type, Schwartz and Fouts hypothesized a profile for these listeners.
They state: It was expected that they would be characterized as being cooperative, sociable, reflective (i.e., not impulsive), responsible, accepting of others and their families, and having confidence in their academic abilities. However, they may also have particular insecurities involving self – esteem, their developing bodies, sexual relationships, and their acceptance by peers. This profile would be due to light music containing these theses and associated emotions (Schwartz and Fouts 207).
In many ways, light music has the same effects on its listeners that heavy music does. Light music provides people with a sense of validation for what they think and feel about themselves, others, and society by assuring them that they are not emotionally alone. To explore the connection between music preference and personality type, Schwartz and Fouts conducted a study. A Millon Adolescent Personality Inventory test was given to 164 students, and then they were asked to use a set of descriptive words to describe music of various genres that was played for them. The study allowed for the profiling of people who prefer heavy music versus those who prefer light music. They concluded that those who preferred heavy music were more likely to question others’ motives and communicate in a blunt, insensitive manner. These individuals were also “more likely to be aggressive and viewed as adolescents who are problems as opposed to those who have problems” (Schwartz and Fouts 211). This shows that these individuals may exhibit lack of emotional development that would allow them to better cope with these extreme feeling they may have.
These individual’s feelings coincide with the heavy music that they have been shown to prefer. For example, their emotional discord is mirrored in the harsh tones and dissonance of heavy metal or rock music. Likewise, the messages and issues projected in these types of songs matches that of which its listeners are dealing with. Feelings of anger, distrust, loneliness, and rejection of authority are common themes that can be observed in this type of music. Furthermore, the musicians who create heavy music generally match the personality type of the people that listen to it. This adds another dimension to the explanation of why certain personality types are drawn to specific styles of music because. The listeners relate to the musician’s feelings and it gives both parties a way to connect, as to not feel alone, and any confusions about their identity as individuals can be potentially validated.
This connection may provide a sense of belonging that the listener may not be receiving in the immediate environment. MUSIC REDUCES STRESS/ SOURCE OF CONSOLATION Since music has such therapeutic qualities when it comes to mood management, it can be used as a form of treatment for anxiety, depression or to escape everyday stress. Music as a coping mechanism and how we seek consolation through music has been studied in recent years.
Consolation is “the comfort and understanding that a person receives from others, or in this specific case, listening to music, after a loss or disappointment to the effect that physical ease or wellbeing is increased” (Ter Bogt 156). Music can be used as a healthy outlet to explore one’s feelings and seek validation, and regardless of the genre, music can lift one’s mood or at least alleviate feelings of loss or sadness. In cases of longer lasting moods such as anxiety or depression, music can be used in a remedial way to help individuals cope and understand internal and external problems (Ter Bogt 157).