My Parents Listen To Better Music Than Your Parents: How Our Parents Influence What Music We Like

6 Jul

Expanding upon my previous post on musical preferences with infants, I would like to explore research that offers insight on why we like our favorite music.  Current theories speculate that favoritism in music can be accounted for through exposure frequency (mere-exposure effect) and exposure setting of songs, personality and lifestyle differences of the listener, and physiological associations within our musical memory.  These proposals all lend to an abundance of supporting literature and research yet one recent study published in the North American Journal of Psychology examined another variable that might contribute to the development of listening habits — our parents.

The study investigated whether the musical selections of one’s parents could influence or alter their own musical preferences.  The parents of participants (students from a local college), were contacted prior to the experiment and given a survey that evaluated their personal preferences, involvement with music, and musical suggestions that parents might have projected upon their students.  From this data, researchers constructed individual CD-mixes (personalized mixes for specific participants) and a universal mix of favorite songs (determined by the overall results  of the parent evaluations)  for the student-participants to listen and rate.   Next, student-parents relationships were evaluated using a survey to determine whether the student participants viewed their parents are “warm and nurturing” or “cold and over-protective.”  Finally, students participated in individual listening sessions, during which the customized CD-mixes as well as the universal mix were played backed and rated on likability using a numerical scale.

What these results reveal is another condition that might impact our musical preferences: the results favored a parental influence on the musical preferences of participants who expressed warm and nurturing student-parent relationships.  These participants demonstrated superior ratings on music that their parents favored than the students that perceived their parent-to-student relationship as cold and over-protecting.  Thus, the degree of this influence seems dependent on the state of our perceived  relationships with our parents.  Furthermore, the researchers of this study speculated that parents who expose their children to a broader rage of musical styles might be able to alter or influence behavior.  Previous research has shown that listening to isolated, specific genres of music can actually increase sexual and rebellious activity.  One way to counter these side-effects is to expose children to a variety of music, spreading their listening habits across genres.  Perhaps these studies suggest that along with teaching our kids good morals and positive life-lessons,  exposure to diverse music supplies a crucial foundation not only for forming bettering listening habits but also behavior.  So parents, bring out that old turntable and dust off those vinyls, because your favorite music has found its new audience.

Serbun, S.J., & DeBono, K.G. (2010). On appreciating the music of our parents: the role of the parent-child bond. North American Journal of Psychology , 12(1), 93.

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