Music vs Smarts: Can music make you dumb?

Virgil Griffith, the creator of WikiScanner, put together a project that looks at the link between peoples’ SAT scores and the bands that they listen to. Of course SAT scores are not necessarily the best measure of intelligence, but Virgil chose it because it was easy to gather:  He used Facebook to find the “10 most popular bands” for 1,352 schools via Facebook’s “network statistics” (sadly no longer available), and correlated this with each of the schools’ average SAT scores.

What he found was that the smartest people listened to Beethoven (average SAT of 1371), and the people at the low end of the scale (average SAT of 889) listened to Lil’ Wayne.

The average SAT score studies was about 1050 – and as you would assume, most bands fit squarely into this range.

Of course correlation and causation are two completely different things. Does listening to Lil’ Wayne make you dumb, or do people who are already less intelligent naturally listen to this music? Can you make yourself smarter or dumber by listening to certain types of music? Or do we just live in a society where people listen to the music that they are expected to listen to based on their perceived social standing?

These questions all remain unanswered, but it’s pretty interesting to see the results – and there are definitely some surprises – all summed up in the chart below. Listed are the 133 most popular (out of 1,455) favorite music from 1,352 schools.

8 Responses to Music vs Smarts: Can music make you dumb?
  1. Robert

    Actually, other than the two extremes mentioned, I don’t see much of a pattern. Certainly not one you would expect, anyway; for example, many acts associated with “stoner” music tend toward the higher end of the score spectrum.

    Oddly enough, my favorite ever since high school, Nine Inch Nails, does not seem to appear on the list. Coincidentally, I never did take the SAT. Curious, no?

    • schmoog

      that’s because only old people like us listen to NiN

      • Stephan

        NO I listen to NiN and I am 13

  2. Bosko

    Notice that while Mensa heartthrob Beethoven sits alone at the far right, “classical” crouches in the 950-1000 range. And “jazz” is even lower. This is baloney.

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  4. Logan

    I don think that the chart above is correct. I listen to stuff like Linkin Park and I get a WAY higher score on my SAT’s!

  5. Stephan

    Ummm, this graph is wrong. Maybe for averages, but not me. I listen to MCR, NIN, PTV, SWS, GD, and RHCP. Yet, I am a straight A’s student (mostly, right now I have a 88 in social studies, I got a C+ on a pop quiz).

  6. Tony

    This is interesting, but has absolutely no merit. Measuring intelligence with a standardized test is useless and problematic. Then to attribute the measurements with musical taste and frame it as though one is causing the other is even more problematic.
    Garbage data, garbage chart, garbage response… but interesting! Very interesting!