What Your Musical Taste Says About Your Personality

A 15 second clip was enough to reveal aspects of personality.

A 15 second clip was enough to reveal aspects of personality.

People who like more sophisticated music, like opera and jazz are higher in openness to experience, research finds.

People who are open to experience are more likely to be imaginative, sensitive to their feelings, intellectually curious and seekers of variety.

Openness to experience, one of the five major facets of personality, is also linked to higher intelligence.

The study also found that those who like music that is unpretentious, relaxing and acoustic, like folk and country, tend to be more extraverted.

Extraverts are outgoing and energetic.

The final personality trait linked to musical taste was agreeableness.

Agreeable people tended to like all types of music more.

The study based its findings on putting music into one of five categories:

  • Mellow – romantic and relaxing, like R&B, soft rock and adult contemporary.
  • Unpretentious – relaxing country, folk and acoustic.
  • Sophisticated – complex and dynamic, like opera, classical, jazz and world.
  • Intense – loud, distorted and aggressive music, like rock, punk and heavy metal.
  • Contemporary – includes electronic, dance, rap and Euro-pop.

Only the ‘sophisticated’ and ‘unpretentious’ types were related to personality, the researchers found.

Liking contemporary, intense or mellow music, therefore, does not tell us anything in particular about your personality.

The conclusions come from a survey of 22,252 people who were played unfamiliar clips of music just 15 seconds long and asked to rate them.

These were then compared with tests of the five personality factors: openness to experience, neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

The study’s authors write that…

“…people who have a need for creative and intellectual stimulation prefer unconventional and complex musical styles, and that people who are sociable and enthusiastic prefer musical styles that are energetic and lively.”

The authors conclude:

“These results corroborate that music – a form of self-expression that is ubiquitous across human cultures – communicates meaningful information about basic psychological characteristics.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Nave et al., 2018).

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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