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Is It Genetic?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

question mark, a question for you

Ok… I’ve got a question for you today:

Is musical taste/musical preference genetic?

No, it’s not a trivia challenge question.  No multiple choice answers.

I’m not looking for a “right” or “wrong” answer.  I’m interested in exploring this more.  Going deeper.

And I’d LOVE what YOU think.

Here’s a little bit of the backstory:

I was lying in bed thinking about the type of music that I’ve been drawn to–from as far back as I can remember.  I grew up listening to and loving story songs.  It didn’t matter if it was an R&B song, a country song, a folk song–as long as it told a story I was hooked.

Yes, there was an “environmental influence” factor in the equation.  My parents listened to this music.  It was what I was exposed to.

But interestingly, my DNA also ties me to those musical legacies.

Years later, Hawaiian music came into my life and turned my world upside down.  I don’t have a drop of Hawaiian blood in my family (at least none that I know of) and yet I took to Hawaiian music immediately.

Was it just the storytelling aspect that I fell for?  Or was it something deeper?  Did something encoded within my body say “YES!” when I heard it?

Is my enjoyment of that style of music influenced–even in just a little part–by genetics?

I’m not a scientist.  Not by anyone’s standards!  (Sadly, the only science I come into contact with these days is what I read in those “pop science” magazines you might pick up in an airport newsstand.)  But a quick internet search this morning showed me that the world of science is researching the role of genetics in preference.

Whatcha think?

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts.  Please drop me a line or leave a comment!

3 Responses to “Is It Genetic?”

  1. Madi says:

    I saw this and found it super interesting…

    I don’t think it’s genetic by any means. Music preference? You can’t just look at a gene and be like, “hey look, this child is going to love hawaiian music when they grow up!” There could be other aspects to somebodys dna that could make them more predisposed to enjoying it… but as for anything that means anything… i don’t think so.

    My 3 year old absolutely loves Jason Mraz, Colbie Caillat, Schuyler Fisk and John Mayer. Coincidentally, those are some of my favorite artists and I’ve been listening/singing them since this child has been in the womb. I think he has enviornmentally heard it and especially hearing it from somebody like your mother daily, it has made it grow to something that he likes and enjoys with me.

    To say that there’s a gene that links what kind of music you like is like saying your future is already predetermined and there should be a whole heck of a lot of other things that they just can’t figure out yet figured out before this.

  2. Sarah says:

    There is really so much we don’t know in the “nature v nurture’ debate. There are so many complicating factors and, as nothing is ever in isolation, it probably is a combination of upbringing, experience, genetics, and more.

    There is some evidence, for example, that there may be very, very slight variation in the visual receptor pigments in our eyes; a “red” detector, for example, might be set off by a slightly higher or lower wave length of light depending on it’s molecular structure. Thus, each person “see” red slightly differently. If this different is genetic, it could mean that certain combinations of wave lengths are more pleasing to people were certain mixes of pigments in their retinas. And if the molecular differences are genetic, perhaps there would be a hereditary component for why some people find certain art more attractive than others, pushing aside the fact that we have no way of knowing how another being sees color; without knowing it, we all instinctively agree that a certain visual stimulus is “red” without ever knowing if what we consider “red” is really what someone else considers to be the same color. But I digress into the philosophical . . .

    We do know that certain people are “super tasters” — people who can taste more than “normal” people. We also know that there is a wide range of ability to hear sounds, or to see colors. Color blindness, for example, is hereditary. The number of nerve endings in your fingers may influence how well your sense of touch works. Any of these could provide a basis for a genetic link to personal preferences. It would make sense, too, in an evolutionary sense, too — you’d want your offspring to share the preferences that helped you survive.

    So, yes, there probably is a genetic component. But we also know that genetic expression is more important than simply having “the genes.” But we also learn to adapt and work with our surroundings. We are designed such that nurture also plays a role in determining who we are. We pass just as much on through examples, stories, songs and words as we do through our physical DNA.

    Who really knows why we are as we are. I certainly don’t. I’m pretty sure, however, that the gene for Muppet obsession IS genetic. My sister and I share it and when we met our cousins (also two sisters) whom we did now grow up knowing, we found that they had the same “disease” with identical symptoms, so we figured that there had to be something in my mother’s family line. At least, that’s our excuse for now :)