Music plays a huge role in the lives of people all over the world and at any age . What individual factors can influence musical preferences? Could the content of your playlist, for example, reveal something about your personality?
People listen to music as a way to set the mood , motivate a workout, or even get inspired. How much do those choices influence the underlying personality traits?
Personality traits linked to musical styles
A large-scale study by researchers at Heriot-Watt University examined more than 36,000 participants from around the world. S and asked participants to rate more than 104 different musical styles as well as offering information on aspects of their personalities.
According to researcher Adrian North, the reason why people sometimes feel defensive about their taste in music could be related to how much it relates to attitudes and personality. North suggests that people define themselves through music and use it as a means of relating to other people. Her research points to the connection people often make between who they are as an individual and their musical tastes.
Keep in mind that these are the results published in a single study rather than being replicated and validated by a variety of researchers and different study designs. The following are some of the personality traits that the study linked to certain musical styles.
- Pop music. Fans of the top 40 pop hits tend to be outgoing, honest, and mainstream. While pop music lovers are hardworking and have high self-esteem, researchers suggest they tend to be less creative and more awkward.
- Rap and hip / hop music. Despite the stereotype that rapists are more aggressive or violent, researchers have not found such a link. Rap fans tend to have high self-esteem and are generally outgoing.
- Country music. Country music fans are typically hard-working, conventional, and outgoing. While country songs often focus on heartbreak, people who gravitate toward this genre tend to be very emotionally stable. They also tend to be more conservative and rank lower in the openness to experience trait.
- Rock / Heavy or metal music. Despite the sometimes aggressive image the project projects for rock and heavy metal music, the researchers found that fans of this style of music are generally quite friendly. They tend to be creative, but are often introverted and can suffer from low self-esteem.
- Indie music. Fans of the indie genre are typically introverted, intellectual, and creative. According to the researchers, they also tend to be less hard-working and less gentle. Passivity, anxiety, and low self-esteem are other common personality characteristics.
- Dance music. According to the researchers, people who prefer dance music tend to be outgoing and assertive . They also tend to figure prominently in the openness to experience trait. People who prefer fast-paced electronic music also tend to have a low level of graciousness.
- Classical music. Classical music lovers tend to be more introverted, but are also comfortable with themselves and the world around them. They are creative and have a good sense of self-worth.
- Jazz, blues and soul music. People who enjoy jazz, blues, or soul music were found to be more outgoing with high self-esteem. They also tend to be very creative, smart, and comfortable.
How your brain processes information from music
One study found that the types of music you enjoy may be related to the ways your brain processes information . The researchers suggest that there are two ways of responding to the world: empathy involves being able to respond to the world based on social cues, while systematization involves interaction based on pre-established conceptions of how people think they should respond.
In the study, the researchers found that people who were empathetic were also more likely to enjoy soft but emotionally rich contemporary music , ranging from indie-rock to country to folk. However, it was more likely to prefer systematizers music complex, intense and energetic he was optimistic and positive.
Systematizers, which the researchers suggest tend to follow career paths in math and science, are more drawn to the structural complexity of music, often fond of classical music, jazz, and the world. Empathizers, who are often more drawn to creative careers or those that involve working with people, are more likely to prefer softer music that evokes strong emotional responses.
However, not all research supports the idea that personality traits play a role in determining musical preferences. A 2017 meta-analysis found that personality traits played very little role in explaining these individual differences.
Experts note that personality traits alone do not take into account musical preferences. While music is often an important way of expressing one’s identity, research has shown that people listen to music for a variety of purposes.
One study suggested that some of the key psychological functions music serves include enhancing performance, stimulating curiosity and imagination, and amplifying certain moods or emotions. Other factors, such as gender, age, social class, and cultural background, also play important roles in musical taste.
What kind of music do you listen to? Maybe you’re one of those people who loops when they like a song and can spend hours and hours listening to it … and that’s good! What matters is that you enjoy music, whatever personality you have.