August 29, 2023
Medical Mysteries of Music

What Kind of Music Do Psychopaths Like? Bieber, Apparently.

Know someone who likes Justin Bieber? You might want to watch your back. And sleep with the light on, too.

Pascal Wallisch, who works as a psychology professor at New York University, gave 190 students in the faculty a test designed to determine how much of a psychopath each of them may be. Among the questions were statements like “For me what’s right is whatever I can get away with” and “Love is overrated.”

Then came the musical tests. Participants were played a large selection of music, from Top 40 hits to classical pieces making sure that most of the songs were unfamiliar to the students to eliminate personal biases. They were asked to rate how much they liked or disliked the 100 or so selections.

Then came the real fun where the answers to the psychopathy questions were correlated with how the students rated the music. When all was said and done, about 20 songs that seemed to be very popular and very unpopular with the students who rated high on the psychopath scale.

Here’s where it got interesting. Psychopathic-trending students really dug Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean.” These same people rated songs like “Money for Nothing” for Dire Straits and The Knack’s “My Sharona” really low. Same thing with classical music. (Take that, A Clockwork Orange!)

More testing is required, but the research seems to point at being able to identify psychopaths by the music they like. Deep down, though, I think we’ve always suspected that, right?

Read more here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 36963 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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