The window to the soul

Many studies have made efforts to link music preference to personality and behaviour. Some have gone so far as to make iffy cause-and-effect pronouncements, like that listening to gangsta rap makes your pants go all baggy. I recall one recently that made the earth-shattering claim that people who

are depressed like to listen to sad music, though one researcher – no doubt sitting in the dark with a bottle of scotch listening to the Cowboy Junkies and sobbing uncontrollably – noted that it was difficult to determine which was cause and which was effect.

A recent survey of U.K. IT professionals suggests that music preferences map to job function.

The Training Camp is an “”accelerated learning”” training outfit that puts IT pros through intensive, two-week courses – think of it as French immersion, but without the rich food and fine wines. The academy took advantage of its captive audience to survey the contents of its students’ MP3 players.

According to the company, different categories of IT professionals have distinctive – and consistent – musical preferences.

Since half-hearted attempts to contact Training Camp founder Robert Chapman haven’t yielded any results, I’m going to go out on a limb and do some interpreting myself. A quick summary of the results:

* Microsoft-certified professionals lean toward mainstream pop, with Britney Spears, Dido and Beyonce topping their list. Hit me baby one more time with those OS patches!

* Security folks like their ’60s alt-rockers. They dig The Doors and Hendrix, but The Grateful Dead is the farthest out, man. (I find this worrisome . . . I hope that new Trojan isn’t harshing your buzz, dudes.)

* Linux professionals are into electro – The Orb, Underworld and Kraftwerk were the Top 3 – which I suppose is appropriate: They’re both disciplines based on sampling someone else’s work and trying to turn it into something cooler.

* Developers are metalheads, favouring Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Slipknot.

* Database administrators are into indie bands, the favourite being – yikes – The Smiths (representative sample lyric: “”Heaven knows I’m miserable now””).

* Project managers are classic rock afficionados, with Pink Floyd and Queen topping the charts. Pompous, overblown and overrated. I’m drawing no conclusions . . .

* CIOs and IT directors listen to classical music in an obvious effort to fit some kind of executive stereotype.

“”I’ve always suspected that there is a strong link between professional and musical orientation,”” says Chapman in a press release. But I think the research raises more questions than answers. Are the preferences a reflection of the archetypal personality of each profession? Could musical taste be an accurate predictor of potential success in a particular line of work? Isn’t it fun to develop stereotypes of database adminstrators? And, perhaps most importantly: Britney Spears? Really? Are there that many teenage girls with MCSE certification?

One factor that Chapman didn’t appear to take into consideration is age. I used to car pool – many years ago – with a junior developer who would blast The Sex Pistols all the way in to work. (It was a crappy tape deck that ran far too fast, so it was kinda like listening to the Chipmunks thrashing God Save the Queen.) Now, he’s a senior software architect. He doesn’t rock any harder than Sade.

I’d be interested to know what you all do, what you listen to, and whether you think there’s a plausible connection between the two, so e-mail me.

Dave Webb listens to CDs of soothing, ambient ocean swells and whalesong, just as ordered by the court-appointed psychiatrist.

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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