Harmony and Ethics: Unraveling the Bond Between Musical Tastes and Morality

Music Morals Concept

A groundbreaking study has revealed a significant connection between individuals’ music preferences and their moral values. Utilizing machine learning to analyze lyrics and audio features of favorite songs, the study found that music significantly influences moral sensibilities. Over 1,400 participants shared their favorite music for analysis, which showed that musical elements like pitch and timbre correlate with certain moral values.

Researchers have found a strong connection between people’s music tastes and their moral values, suggesting that music is more than entertainment and can shape moral beliefs.

A new study, published on November 29 in the journal PLOS ONE, has uncovered a remarkable connection between individuals’ musical preferences and their moral values, shedding new light on the profound influence that music can have on our moral compass.

The research, conducted by a team of scientists at Queen Mary University of London and ISI Foundation in Turin, Italy, employed machine learning techniques to analyze the lyrics and audio features of individuals’ favorite songs, revealing a complex interplay between music and morality.

“Our study provides compelling evidence that music preferences can serve as a window into an individual’s moral values,” stated Dr. Charalampos Saitis, one of the senior authors of the study and Lecturer in Digital Music Processing at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.

Research Process and Data Collection

The study involved an existing dataset of over 1,400 participants who completed psychometric questionnaires assessing their moral values and provided information about their favorite artists through Facebook Page Likes. The researchers then extracted acoustic and lyrical features from the top five songs of each participant’s preferred artists.

Using ML algorithms, the team analyzed the extracted features to predict participants’ moral values. Various text processing techniques, including lexicon-based methods and BERT-based embeddings, were employed to analyze narrative, moral values, sentiment, and emotions in lyrics. Additionally, low- and high-level audio features provided via Spotify’s API were used to understand encoded information in participants’ musical choices, enhancing moral inferences.

Findings and Implications

The results demonstrated that a combination of lyrical and audio features outperformed basic demographic information in predicting individuals’ moral compass. Specifically, musical elements like pitch and timbre emerged as crucial predictors for values of Care and Fairness, while sentiments and emotions expressed in lyrics were more effective in predicting traits of Loyalty, Authority, and Purity.

“Our findings reveal that music is not merely a source of entertainment or aesthetic pleasure; it is also a powerful medium that reflects and shapes our moral sensibilities,” remarked Vjosa Preniqi, lead author of the study and a PhD student in Queen Mary’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Data-informed Audience-centric Media Engineering. “By understanding this connection, we can open up new avenues for music-based interventions that promote positive moral development.”

Future Prospects and Applications

The study’s implications extend beyond mere academic curiosity, holding the potential to impact how we engage with and utilize music in diverse aspects of life. “Our breakthrough can pave the way for applications ranging from personalized music experiences to innovative music therapy and communication campaigns,” commented Dr. Kyriaki Kalimeri, senior co-author of the study and researcher at ISI Foundation.

“Our research has uncovered an important link between music and morality, paving the way for a deeper understanding of the psychological dimensions of our musical experiences,” concluded Vjosa Preniqi. “We are excited to continue exploring this rich and uncharted territory.”

Data Source and Ethical Considerations

This study was conducted using data from the LikeYouth Facebook application, a research-focused survey tool that has engaged over 64,000 participants primarily in Italy. Participants provided voluntary and informed consent and completed various psychometric surveys, including the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ), in addition to sharing demographic details and Facebook Page Likes.

Reference: “Soundscapes of morality: Linking music preferences and moral values through lyrics and audio” by Vjosa Preniqi, Kyriaki Kalimeri and Charalampos Saitis, 29 November 2023, PLOS ONE.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0294402

2 Comments on "Harmony and Ethics: Unraveling the Bond Between Musical Tastes and Morality"

  1. This article literally says nothing.
    Morality is relative; humanity is absolute. Morality is only useful when humanity fails. Morality is written by those in charge – it is not a principle but a law. Humanity in a person dictates what is right for a given set of circumstances and knows no cultural resrictions.

    • Stunned At Rampant Stupidity | December 30, 2023 at 2:01 pm | Reply

      Relative to what? I find your comments disingenuous at best. Morality is ALWAYS useful (gauge of human interactions). Nor is it “written by those in charge”. Where did you imagine that? It is not a “law” either. Laws do not govern “morality”.

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