Music doesn’t speak to everyone. Some otherwise healthy people just don’t derive pleasure from listening to music, scientists report in the March 17 Current Biology.
Because music plays such an omnipresent role in societies around the world, it’s reasonable to guess that music’s delights are universal. Not so, found Ernest Mas-Herrero of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute near Barcelona and colleagues. After testing about 1,000 people, the researchers found 10 who say they don’t enjoy music. These people’s bodies backed up their claims: Music, both chosen by the participants and rated by others as pleasurable, didn’t have a big effect on heart rates or skin conductance, a measure of sweat. For other people who said they liked music, song excerpts moved these two bodily measures.
The result isn’t because the people without a taste for music had trouble processing it. Participants knew whether music they heard expressed happiness, sadness, scariness or peace.
A better understanding of why some people don’t enjoy music might help researchers figure out what goes wrong in disorders such as depression that leave people unable to experience pleasure from anything, the authors write.