The Science Behind Someone who Hates Music

Everyone loves music. Well, not everyone. What’s up with people who don’t care about music? About five percent of the population just isn’t into music. The other ninety-five percent think they’re weird- almost to the point of distrusting them. But is there something wrong with them or just our reaction to them? A study out of the University of Barcelona attempted to figure out what sort of person isn’t into music.There’s a known condition called “Amusia” in which people just can’t process music-they don’t understand pitch, they can’t remember or recognize a song. It can be something someone is born with or something that comes from damage to the brain.

There’s no one actual music center in the brain, so it’s usually damage to the audio cortex or some of the memory or logic processing areas. You might say “oh, okay, that solves it- people who don’t like music but plays so much games like Clash Royale just have a case of weird brain.” But amusia doesn’t account for everyone who’s not into music.The Barcelona study looked at these people with healthy minds and no love for melody and had them try a few things to elicit an emotional response. They listened to and rated music. Then they were asked questions and given a range of small monetary rewards if they gave a correct answer.

The idea was to check the reward center of the brain, which shows high activity when most people listen to music- and when they get free money. Because reward center.Anyway, these people seem to have reward systems that function just fine- there’s nothing wrong or different about them. They just literally don’t like music. The researchers call it “specific musical anhedonia”- an inability to experience pleasure from music.So: why do others think they’re weird? We know that people have different interests than us.

Asking around the office, I found that people were fine if someone didn’t like TV, or sports, or reading, or a bunch of other activities. But no one seemed to be cool with people who didn’t enjoy music- or food.Now, we’ve discussed a lot of our ingrained tendencies to seek out and trust people with similar traits before. It’s a safety and survival thing from our tribal past- people who think the way we do make easier and safer companions because there’s less chance of stress and dis agreements. Even babies tend to shun people they think are different in some way (more info). But why the huge distrust and disbelief when it comes to music and food?

This is conjecture, but food’s required for survival and there’s a community aspect to it- early societies built around the sharing of it, and now our cultural clocks are built around meal breaks and family dinners. It’s not just linked to physical survival, it seems to have a link to social survival. Maybe it’s so built into us on a basic level that we distrust people who say they don’t love it. even though in our society where most place shave enough food and obesity is an issue, not feeling strongly about food might be the healthier attitude.A paper published last year by the University of Colorado says music might have a similar social component in our development as a species. The researchers say that music was a form of social communication- a way to signal a group’s shared mental state. The study showed people who more strongly feel a need to belong also feel a stronger emotional connection to music. It could be people are so confused by someone who doesn’t care about music because it signals that person as an outlier fundamentally- sort of like food.Like I said, that’s more me thinking out loud than anything else. But as it stands, 5% of the population isn’t into music- and it seems like nothing’s physically different about most of them.