Music is believed to have many qualities, but a new European study reveals a connection between individuals’ musical preferences and their moral values, shedding fresh light on how music can influence our moral compass.
Research conducted by scientists at Queen Mary University of London and the ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy has found a surprising link between music and moral values.
While some 1,480 participants completed psychometric questionnaires assessing their moral values, the researchers obtained information about their favourite artistes based on the pages they “liked” on Facebook.
The academics then extracted the acoustic and lyrical characteristics of the five most popular songs by each study participant’s favourite artiste. In particular, they used machine-learning algorithms and various text-processing techniques to examine the narratives, moral values, feelings and emotions evoked in the lyrics of each artiste’s songs.
This protocol highlighted how music can provide far more information about an individual’s moral values than demographic data. For example, the timbre and pitch of an individual’s favourite singer’s voice offered information on their capacity for caring and fairness
Meanwhile, the lyrics of their favourite songs could convey more about their vision of loyalty, authority and purity, the scientists reported.
Taken together, these results suggest that our musical preferences are a reflection of our personal convictions, even if the findings, published in the journal PLOS One, have methodological limitations.
“Our findings reveal that music is not merely a source of entertainment or aesthetic pleasure; it is also a powerful medium that reflects and shapes our moral sensibilities,” said lead author Vjosa Preniqi.
“By understanding this connection, we can open up new avenues for music-based interventions that promote positive moral development.”