‘Nature or nurture’ study reveals ‘musical genes’

A love of pop and classical music is partly in our genes

London, UK – If you’ve ever wondered why a close group of friends
might like completely different types of music, blame their genes. A
study by Nokia into the musical tastes of nearly 4,000 twins reveals
genetic influences on the music people like varies with genre.

While, on the whole, musical taste is determined just as much by
nature as it is by specific individual experiences, nature’s
influence is strongest on  appreciation of pop, classical and hip-hop
music – indicating some people may be born to love Michael Jackson,
Beethoven or Jay-Z.

Nature’s influence is lowest on appreciation of folk and country,
where family upbringing appears to play a role – so a CD collection
full of Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell can’t
necessarily be blamed on genetics:

| Genre                     | Nature’s Influence |
| Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop |                53% |
| Jazz/blues/soul           |                46% |
| Rock/indie/heavy metal    |                40% |
| Country/folk              |                24% |

The study, conducted by Nokia and Kings’ College London Department of
Twin Research, investigated the listening habits of nearly 4,000
twins and looked at the influence of both genetic and environmental
factors on musical taste.

“Previous studies have shown that perfect pitch ability appears to be
partly inherent and with as much as 50% of our musical taste being
predetermined, it appears there is a strong argument for the
existence of ‘music genes’” says Adrian North, Professor of
Psychology at Heriot Watt University.

As might be expected, genetic influences decrease over time as
individual experiences becomes more important. Excluding country
music – on average for the under 50s, genes have more influence
(55%)1 than environmental factors (45%)2 , whereas for the over 50s,
the influence of individual specific environmental factors on a music
collection increases to 60%3.

Liz Schimel from Nokia commented; “Mobile phones are changing the way
people experience music and, if we’re to give music fans the music
they want, we need to know what fuels their passions. While
technology doesn’t yet allow us to match DNA to playlists with Nokia
Comes With Music service and millions of tracks in the Nokia Music
Store, there’s something for every gene.”

Genetic influence ranking by genre for under and over 50s

Under 50s
- 56% Jazz/blues/soul
- 55% Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop
- 53% Rock/indie/heavy metal
- 0% Country/folk

Over 50s
- 43% Pop/classical/rap/hip-hop
- 42% Jazz/blues/soul
- 34% Rock/indie/heavy metal
- 28% Country/folk

Born to buy music, but not to listen to it

While genetic influence on the music we like (55%) is clear, genes
have a significantly lower influence (25%) on our motivations for
listening to music. According to the research, listening habits are
influenced by a desire to soundtrack our day, wanting to set a mood,
or simply to enjoy the listening experience rather than any ‘play
music now’ gene.

A video including interviews is available at



Notes to Editors
The research was conducted amongst identical (MZ) twins and fraternal
(DZ) twins. MZ twins share 100% the same genes, whereas DZ twins
share half the same genes, just like ordinary siblings. Assuming the
shared environment they grew up in is equally similar for MZ and DZ
twins, it is possible to conclude that any greater similarity in
musical taste between identical twins than non-identical twins is due
to genetic influences.

About Nokia
Nokia is a pioneer in mobile telecommunications and the world’s
leading maker of mobile devices. Today, we are connecting people in
new and different ways – fusing advanced mobile technology with
personalized services to enable people to stay close to what matters
to them. We also provide comprehensive digital map information
through NAVTEQ; and equipment, solutions and services for
communications networks through Nokia Siemens Networks.

Media Enquiries:

Tel. +358 7180 34900
Email: press.services@nokia.com


1. This figure is the mean of percentages for heritability in the
under 50s, for indie/rock music (53%), pop/classical (55%) and
jazz/blues (56%)
2. This figure is the mean of percentages for environmental
influence in the under 50s, for indie/rock music (47%), pop/classical
(45%) and jazz/blues (44%)
3. This figure is the mean of percentages for environmental
influence in the over 50s, for indie/rock music (66%), pop/classical
(58%) and jazz/blues (58%)

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