What’s Going on in the Heads of People Who Say They Don’t Like Music?

Everyone likes music, right? Well, no. Some people have a condition called “musical anhedonia.” For them, music can be boring, distracting or even seriously annoying. What’s going on in their heads? Rupinder points us to this article in The Atlantic.

Allison Sheridan couldn’t care less about music. Songs of love and heartbreak don’t bring her to tears, complex classical compositions don’t amaze her, peppy beats don’t make her want to dance. For Sheridan, a retired engineer, now a podcaster, who owns 12 vinyl records and hasn’t programmed the radio stations in her car, “music sits in an odd spot halfway between boring and distracting.”

Despite coming from a tremendously musical family, Sheridan is part of the roughly 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population that has an apathy toward music. It’s what’s referred to as specific musical anhedonia—different from general anhedonia, which is the inability to feel any kind of pleasure and which is often associated with depression. In fact, there’s nothing inherently wrong with musical anhedonics; their indifference to music isn’t a source of depression or suffering of any kind, although Sheridan notes, “The only suffering is being mocked by other people, because they don’t understand it. Everybody loves music, right?”

Previous research shows that the vast majority of people who enjoy music show an increase in heart rate or skin conductance—where a person’s skin temporarily becomes a conductor of electricity in response to something they find stimulating. Musical anhedonics, however, show no such physiological change to music. A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, took those findings a step further by studying neural responses to music.

Fascinating. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.