You like hard rock and she likes classical. No problem, right? Well, science says you might be in for some bigger problems down the road.
For many people, music doesn’t just reflect personal tastes—it reflects their identity. Studies say that this relationship with music emerges during adolescence when young adults are trying to strike a balance between approval and standing out.
According to psychologists, music functions as a badge that people use to not only express themselves, but also judge others. The girl who wants to appear rebellious chooses music that’s made by people who seem to rebel. The boy who wants to fit in picks music created by people who seem to be accepted. Music helps adolescents choose a peer group that makes them feel accepted.
As adults, you listen to music that aligns with your values. Research shows there’s a strong relationship between music preference and personality. For example, reflective and complex people tend to listen to classical, jazz, blues, and folk, while upbeat and conventional people lean toward country, religious, soundtrack, and pop.
So how do these music preferences impact a budding romance? A study on the effects of musical genres on sexual attraction found that some types of music fare better than others. Heterosexual men and women both consider country music to be less enticing than other music genres. Women tend to be more interested in men who are into heavy metal, whereas women’s interest in heavy metal actually decreases attraction for men. The reverse is true of classical music. Guys like girls who listen to it, but girls aren’t as into classical music-loving guys.
In addition to singling out sexy musical genres, that same study found that men and women value music differently in a relationship: Men care about what women listen to and whether or not their tastes match. Conversely, it doesn’t matter as much to women if men share their same musical taste.
Given that musical tastes reflects people’s self-identity and personal values, it’s no wonder that music impacts sexual attraction and relationship status. However, just because a musical genre is viewed as “sexy” by science, doesn’t mean you should force yourself to like it. The right person will love you for—or even despite of—what you listen to.