Older and Musically Wiser?

With age comes musical wisdom.

iPOD Hand

[Photo by ariz]

Back in March I asked for your help with some research on music and personality I was carrying out with my colleagues. Although it was restricted to people living in the UK, there was a healthy response to the online questionnaire. Joy of joys, there were also some interesting results, so I thought I would update you with how it turned out.

Music preferences and personality
Perhaps you’ll remember this research was based on the relationships found between the music people like and their personalities (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003). More specifically, correlations have been found between the general attributes of musical genres that people like and responses to the ‘Big Five’ personality questionnaires (these Big Five factors are extraversion, openness to experience, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness).

There was a suggestion in the previous research that age might play a role in this relationship. This makes some intuitive sense – it’s possible that with age comes musical wisdom. As a result your musical taste better reflects your personality; or perhaps your personality better reflects your musical taste!

Either way, the research tested this idea using a personality questionnaire and the Short Test of Musical Preferences (with the fantastic acronym ‘STOMP’ ). When the data was analysed, it did indeed support the idea that the musical genre preferences of those over 30 were more strongly asssociated with their personalities than those aged between 18 and 30 (Dean, Yu & Epps (2007).

The correlations found for those aged 18 to 30 were between openness to experience and two categories of musical genres: music that is ‘reflective & complex’ and ‘intense & rebellious’ (r = .4 & .19 respectively). For those over 30, along with these associations, two more correlations emerged, these were between genres that were ‘upbeat & conventional’ and each of the two personality factors conscientiousness and agreeableness (r = .29 & .31 respectively).

How can this be explained? I speculate the age difference results from identity development. Young people are generally more engaged in the stressful work of developing and forming their identities. Part of this process might be about ‘trying on’ different types of music for size. For the more mature, however, their identity has usually settled down, so connections between music genre preferences and personality are stronger.

Thank you
So, thanks again to everyone who took part and watch this space for some new research I’ll be conducting online.

Encephalon #21 is live at Ouroboros

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Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

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