Some Totally Normal People Just Don’t Like Music That Much

While some of us find ourselves quietly crying in the middle of a Target when some dumb song comes on, others are unmoved

music
Steve Mishos

Frederich Nietzche wrote, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Taylor Swift agrees. “People haven’t always been there for me, but music always has,” she once said. And we're all on board with this—everybody loves music, right? Well, not really. It turns out that there are totally normal people who just aren’t that into music. 

A group of reseachers working mostly in Spain, who published their findings in a recent edition of Current Biology, call this condition “musical anheodnia,” a fancy way of saying that someone isn’t able to derive pleasure from music. These people aren’t deaf or soulless freaks, either. The press release explains:

The results were clear: some otherwise healthy and happy people do not enjoy music and show no autonomic responses to its sound, despite normal musical perception capacities. Those people do respond to monetary rewards, which shows that low sensitivity to music isn't tied to some global abnormality of the reward network.

So while some of us find ourselves quietly crying in the middle of a Target when some dumb song comes on, other—also totally normal—people carry on tear free.

The paper runs through a few reasons why people might differ in their love for music. Perhaps some people decode the emotions in music differently than others. Perhaps someone’s mood could impact how they perceive music. Or perhaps, as the researchers describe in wonderfully academic terms here, they don’t have great rhythm:

A third aspect to bear in mind as a source of individual differences is the strong impact that music has in humans through the capacity to spontaneously and intuitively synchronize our body movements to a rhythm’s beat, using simple movements (e.g. toe tapping or head nodding) or more complex ones such as dancing. 

You can find out if you’re one of these non-music loving people by taking this quiz from the authors. Then again, you probably already know if you are or not.