Everyone is ready to admit that music defined their teen years. During that period in our lives belonging to a subculture is essential for survival. Or at least teens think so. The easiest way to distinguish subculture groups is by music.
Preppy kids dance to upbeat songs from pop charts, rappers blast the latest hip hop album from their cars, and goths tend to look for gloomy songs with complex lyrics. But what happens once we outgrow the subcultural phenomenon? Is music that we listen to still one of the most important factors in our behavior, and understanding the world?
Musician and musicologist Nolan Gasser thinks so, and gaming expert Aleksandra Maj agrees (read her full bio here). They both think teens are not the only ones who make decisions based on music. In their opinion, adults tend to do the same, and music we loved when we are young creates not only strong preferences in terms of fashion sense but also values.
“Tell me what music you like, and I’ll tell you what games you play,” jokes Aleksandra at the very beginning of our conversation. As a renowned gaming specialist from Poland, she participated in many kinds of research, including those that analyze the influence of music preferences on gaming choices.
“Metalheads will always look for slot games packed with slightly gore imagery and guitar riffs, but things aren’t always that obvious. Slots inspired by the 1980s, like those you can find at YoYo Casino, will not only speak to audiences who were young at the peak of the Miami Vice series, but to everyone who appreciates good funky sounds and the late-disco era,” she claims. Maj believes that what she calls “soundtracks of our lives” have a major impact on our gaming preferences.
Musicologist, author of the book Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste, and the head of The Music Genome Project research, Nolan Gasser supports Maj in her opinion.
Gasser says every baby is born with no preference in music or language, yet exposure to both language and music helps our brains make connections and preferences that last a lifetime. That is why music, even when it is no longer the most relevant factor in choosing our clothes, interests, and social circles, remains important in the decision-making process. In a way, it builds up our character, affects our system of values and the way we see the world in general. Bubblegum-pop fans and a person in love with classical music can hardly share the same taste and values, according to some.
There is no doubt music shapes our habits, values, and preferences. Maj says how there is also an obvious generational gap in types of gaming genres, depending on the music integrated with the game.
“You will often hear complaints of the older generation about how the latest slot releases are too loud. They prefer much calmer surroundings, like that in table games with elevator music. At the same time, younger generations can’t stand roulette games with smooth jazz tunes. Music really affects the choices we make while gaming, and probably choices we make in other aspects of life”, she says.
The 2016 research under the name The Song is You, conducted by David Greenberg and his teammates at the University of Cambridge, revealed an important connection between music, emotions, and personality traits. Every song tested was evaluated based on arousal (level of energy), valence (emotions), and depth (meaningfulness). The results were astonishing. As it turns out, these three musical phenomenons directly relate to Big Five personality traits: conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism
The research showed upbeat music with positive undertones is preferred by people with a high level of self-confidence. Those are people who are more open to others, often extroverted, and are more excited to try new things. At the same time, more “serious” music like jazz, classical music, and progressive rock, was a popular choice among professionals, a more tech-savvy audience, and people who were admired for their technical skills. People employed at high positions, such as directors or diplomats, were more open to blues, soul, and other types of music with great musical intensity.
Dr. Greenberg, who conducted the research, says music is more than just entertainment. He thinks it is a form of language that resides deep in our brains and has more effect on our daily decisions than we’re willing to acknowledge.
The evidence that supports the thesis by Maj, Gasser, and Greenberg is all around us. Music is used everywhere and by everyone to trigger positive emotions, flatter us, and convince us to buy, sell, use or accept something. We can ignore this fact, or accept it and take advantage of it.