Most people are aware of how music affects our moods. However, you may be more surprised to learn about the links between music preference and personality. But what genres are linked to personality styles and can listening to your favorite songs really change your personality?
In this post, we’ll take you through some of the research seeking to answer these questions and better understand how your music preference is linked to your personality.
How are music preferences and personality traits linked?
Research has shown that people often define themselves through their musical tastes. For example, in Adrian C. North’s 2010 study “Individual Differences in Musical Taste” it was found that one of the reasons people can often be defensive about their musical tastes is because they fear what it will reveal about their personality.
With a sample size of 36,518, this study also found a number of interesting correlations between the participants’ preference in music and their personality traits.
Here are the results of the study:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, pop fans were found to have conventional tendencies and did not score highly in terms of creativity.
However, more interestingly, North’s study found pop fans also tended to have high self-esteem and were more likely to be extroverted than fans of most other genres (rap and hip-hop aside). Pop fans were also associated with hard work.
Country & Westerners:
Country & Westerners were also linked to conventional personality traits, being hard-working, and being outgoing. However, whilst they were linked to outgoing natures, they were also found to be more resistant to new experiences and to hold more conservative views.
Interestingly, despite the fact that country and western songs are well known for the tendency to focus on heartbreaks, country fans were found to be more likely to be emotionally stable.
Rockers & Heavy Metalheads:
One of the most interesting contradictions in the study came from those that love rock and heavy metal music. While an aggressive image is often associated with fans of this music, this was not reflected in the gentle behaviors they were linked to as part of this study.
Unlike pop and country fans, rockers and heavy metal fans were found to be much more linked with introverted thinking and potentially had lower self-esteem than other groups. Their responses also suggested higher levels of creativity.
Whilst rock and metal fans shared some traits with indie heads, such as being introverted, having low self-esteem, and being creative, they were not found to share the gentleness.
Indie lovers also demonstrated links to intellectualism but did not score highly in terms of a hard-working nature. This group also demonstrated anxious traits suggesting passivity.
Rap & Hip-Hop lovers:
Just as with rock and heavy metal, the aggression and violence sometimes associated with the music itself does not tend to be reflected by those that listen to it.
However, people who liked this genre have been found to have a higher fear threshold. This has the effect of making those in this group more willing to take risks, tending to be more outgoing, and also have higher self-esteem.
Just like people into hip-hop and rap, those into dance music tend to be very open to new experiences and less risk-averse. Equally, they often tend to be more assertive in their personality than those who prefer other genres.
People who expressed a preference for heavy electronic music were also found to score low when it came to feelings of gentleness.
Jazz, Blues & Soul enthusiasts:
If you’re into jazz, blues, or soul, then you’ll like these findings, as members of this group seemed to be linked to almost all the positive personality traits you can imagine.
High self-esteem, creativity, intellect, and all-round being at ease oneself came out from the answers given by participants who slotted into the category of fans of these genres of music.
Do music preferences predict personality traits?
Given these findings, can we say that your music preference can predict your personality? In truth, music preference alone is not entirely predictive of personality nor vice versa.
However, P.J. Rentfrow et. al.’s 2012 study found that knowing what music people listen to can actually be surprisingly accurate when it comes to predictive power about an individual’s personality traits.
A 2015 study taking a reverse approach, looking at how personality traits can influence musical preferences, argued that people fall into two main camps in terms of responding to the world around them: empathizing or systematizing.
Those in the former group were more likely to be linked to musical genres associated with creativity and high emotional content (rock, indie, folk, etc.). Those in the latter group liked genres full of structural complexity and featuring high arousal and stimulation (jazz, dance, rap, etc.).
When it comes to musical tastes, it is often assumed that the direction of travel comes from your personality only. However, the research outlined above has shown that there is more of an interplay between the music we listen to and our personalities themselves.
Indeed, the music we listen to can predict personality traits surprisingly effectively. Nevertheless, we are also likely to be naturally drawn to music that matches the expectations we have of our own personality.
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