'Nature or nurture' study reveals 'musical genes' (w/ Video)

November 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you've ever wondered why a close group of friends might like completely different types of music, blame their genes. A study by Nokia and Kings' College London into the musical tastes of nearly 4,000 twins reveals genetic influences on the music people like varies with genre.

While, on the whole, musical taste is determined just as much by nature as it is by specific individual experiences, nature's influence is strongest on appreciation of pop, classical and hip-hop music - indicating some people may be born to love Michael Jackson, Beethoven or Jay-Z.

The video will load shortly.
A love of pop and classical music is partly in our genes

Nature's influence is lowest on appreciation of folk and country, where family upbringing appears to play a role - so a CD collection full of Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell can't necessarily be blamed on genetics:

The study, conducted by Nokia and Kings' College London Department of Twin Research, investigated the listening habits of nearly 4,000 and looked at the influence of both genetic and environmental factors on musical taste.

"Previous studies have shown that ability appears to be partly inherent and with as much as 50% of our musical taste being predetermined, it appears there is a strong argument for the existence of 'music genes'" says Adrian North, Professor of Psychology at Heriot Watt University.

As might be expected, genetic influences decrease over time as individual experiences becomes more important. Excluding country music - on average for the under 50s, have more influence (55%) than environmental factors (45%), whereas for the over 50s, the influence of individual specific on a music collection increases to 60%.

Genetic influence ranking by genre for under and over 50s

Under 50s
- 56% Jazz/blues/soul
- 55% Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop
- 53% Rock/indie/heavy metal
- 0% Country/folk

Over 50s
- 43% Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop
- 42% Jazz/blues/soul
- 34% Rock/indie/heavy metal
- 28% Country/folk

Born to buy music, but not to listen to it

While on the music we like (55%) is clear, genes have a significantly lower influence (25%) on our motivations for listening to music. According to the research, listening habits are influenced by a desire to soundtrack our day, wanting to set a mood, or simply to enjoy the listening experience rather than any 'play now' gene.

The research was conducted amongst identical (MZ) twins and fraternal (DZ) twins. MZ twins share 100% the same genes, whereas DZ twins share half the same genes, just like ordinary siblings. Assuming the shared environment they grew up in is equally similar for MZ and DZ twins, it is possible to conclude that any greater similarity in musical taste between identical twins than non-identical twins is due to genetic influences.

Provided by Nokia

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Forgotten strands of DNA initiate the development of immune cells

September 21, 2017
Intricate human physiological features such as the immune system require exquisite formation and timing to develop properly. Genetic elements must be activated at just the right moment, across vast distances of genomic space.

Study reveals an ancient Achilles heel in the human genome

September 21, 2017
In a major study published today, researchers at deCODE genetics use whole-genome data from 14,000 people from across the population of Iceland, including 1500 sets of parents and children, to provide the most detailed portrait ...

Genome editing reveals role of gene important for human embryo development

September 20, 2017
Researchers have used genome editing technology to reveal the role of a key gene in human embryos in the first few days of development. This is the first time that genome editing has been used to study gene function in human ...

A piece of the puzzle: Eight autism-related mutations in one gene

September 19, 2017
Scientists have identified a hotspot for autism-related mutations in a single gene.

Scientists identify key regulator of male fertility

September 19, 2017
When it comes to male reproductive fertility, timing is everything. Now scientists are finding new details on how disruption of this timing may contribute to male infertility or congenital illness.

New assay leads to step toward gene therapy for deaf patients

September 18, 2017
Scientists at Oregon State University have taken an important step toward gene therapy for deaf patients by developing a way to better study a large protein essential for hearing and finding a truncated version of it.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.