604-730-3410 teacher@tutor.bc.ca

The Study

Is there a correlation between one’s musical taste and level of intelligence? A study by PhD student Virgil Griffiths suggests there may be. The research uses the results taken from a survey of US college students, determining their musical tastes, and combining them with their SAT scores.   

Griffiths’ research suggests that the genre of music you listen to often reflects your intelligence, with listeners of pop and rap coming out on the lower end of the scale. Classical and alternative music lovers, however, fair far better. Specifically, it is thought that listening to classical music leads to better exam results, this is because it helps to integrate the left and right brain hemispheres.

Brit-Pop or Beethoven?

In 1993, an experiment saw two groups of people perform complex origami-style tasks. One group listened to Mozart while undertaking the tasks and research indicates that these participants excelled in the task and their IQ’s increased. This became known as the Mozart Effect. However, studies have also shown that listening to Blur can have the same effect, indicating that an alternative music preference is a sign of high intelligence.

Many of us associate classical music with being ‘high-brow’, something sophisticated that perhaps only university professors and scientists enjoy.  Yet there must surely be a part of this demographic that enjoy the odd Beyonce tune or even Lil Wayne, who are incidentally associated with low SAT scores.

Genres and the Brain

Indie, rock, metal, jazz, and punk scored highly in the study, and these genres invariably involve intellectual lyrics and far more sophisticated melody structure and time signatures than your average chart hit. Pop music is often loved by teeny-boppers, whilst students prefer the more eclectic stuff. So, if we are challenged intellectually by the music we listen to, it can perhaps improve brain function, increasing the ability to learn and retain information.

There are discrepancies within genres however; listening to IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) is regarded as a far more intellectual pursuit than cranking up your regular dance track.

So we can conclude that classical and alternative music reflects a high level of mental capacity, with Beethoven, Radiohead and Bob Dylan scoring high on the test, whilst Beyonce and Justin Bieber revealing a low result. Coldplay and Pearl Jam find themselves in the middle ground, according to the study. 

Author: Jenny Holt