We Can Determine If We Hate a Song in Five Seconds or Less
When it comes to music, your knee-jerk response may be more than just a reckless dance move. Your immediate reaction to a song might also be the most honest one, a new study has found.
“Over the course of any given song, the acoustic properties change dramatically, but that doesn’t seem to matter much to the listeners. We can determine within five seconds or less whether or not we will like it,” Pascal Wallisch, senior author of the study, explained in a press release.
Wallisch and his team determined this after having 650 students listen to 250 popular songs from the last 80 years in increments of 5, 10 or 15 seconds, or the full song. Participants were then surveyed on if they’d heard the music before and if they enjoyed it. Overall, it didn’t make a difference if they’d listened to a song for a few seconds or in its entirety — their preferences and aversions remained consistent either way.
“This finding might have wide-ranging implications for our understanding of what properties of songs evoke certain emotions in listeners,” Wallisch added. “The fact that a small excerpt is enough to tell us if we like it or hate it, suggests that we respond more to the general vibe that a song brings to us rather than its musical notes per se.”
In the end, listening to a new song is a lot like meeting someone for the first time — you know if you’re going to like them (or not) almost instantly. The good news is, at least with music, you have the option to turn down the volume.