Study: Individuals With Higher Intelligence Are More Likely To Enjoy Instrumental Music

If you’re the kind of person who’d rather jam out to Mozart during your morning commute than the local classic rock station, you may be a bit more intelligent than the average person. That is according to new research published in April 2019.

“I first became interested in this topic while working on a project looking into the relationship between personality traits and musical preferences,” said Elena Recevska, a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University and the study’s author, in an interview with Psypost. “At the time, I was studying evolutionary psychology and became familiar with Satoshi Kanazawa’s Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis.”

For context, the Satoshi Kanazawa’s Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis suggests that intelligence is an evolutionary mechanism that helps a species handle new challenges and unfamiliar situations.

Simply put: individuals with a higher level of intelligence may have a propensity for enjoying types of music that are more novel.

Racevska decided to examine the latter portion of the hypothesis by studying 467 Croatian high school students.

“After reading Kanazawa’s papers, one of which was on the relationship between intelligence and musical preferences, we decided to further test his hypothesis using a different set of predictors — namely, a different type of intelligence test (i.e. a nonverbal measure), and the uses of music questionnaire,” said Racevska.

“We also measured a number of variables likely to have an effect in this relationship, such as taking part in extra-curricular music education, its type and duration.”

According to the study, students who scored higher on the intelligence test were more likely to enjoy instrumental music, like classical, ambient, electronica, and big band jazz.

“Confirming our expectations based on the Savanna-IQ interaction hypothesis, we found intelligence to be a significant predictor of the preference for instrumental music, but not of the preference for vocal-instrumental music,” Racevska wrote. “Furthermore, we revealed the significant role of cognitive use of music as a predictor of the preference for instrumental music.”

Racevska’s research paints an interesting picture, although, as with most research, there are additional questions to answer, like what other factors can determine a person’s musical tastes. Still, the correlation between higher intelligence and more novel stimuli suggested by the Savanna-IQ interaction hypothesis seems to exist.

“We also found the cognitive use of music to be significantly correlated with the preference for instrumental music, as well as music of reflexive, intense and sophisticated factors.”

“Taken together, our findings support the Savanna-IQ interaction hypothesis,” Racevska concluded.

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