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Monday, September 8, 2008

Hmmmm, Tell Me About Your Childhood

British Psychological Study Reveals Link Between Musical Taste and Personality

You know that friend of yours who absolutely loves the speed metal music of Napalm Death? Ahhh yes… And then there is that other acquaintance who loves Eastern European country rap. Not to mention your sister’s unhealthy obsession with Norah Jones… Well, it seems that after an extensive psychological survey of more than 35,000 music lovers, British researchers have done it at last. They've proven our music tastes reflect our personality.

The Department of Psychology at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland asked people from around the world to describe their personality and then tell researchers their preferred musical genre. What the study discovered from the results was that people's personality traits are connected directly to their music of choice. The study of thousands of people from six different countries found that people had more in common with fans of their favourite music in other countries than they had with fellow citizens who preferred different styles of music.

For example, Jazz fans tend to be creative and outgoing, with high self-esteem, in keeping with the innovative and sociable nature of the music. Country western fans were found to be hard-working, but introverted, fitting with the blue-collar image of country music. Fans of Indie music were found to have low self-esteem and be under-motivated but described themselves as creative individuals. Rap lovers, however, think highly of themselves and are outgoing. Those people who lean towards dance music are also quite extroverted but are more likely to be cold towards others and be self-centred. The research concluded soul music lovers are a well-rounded bunch — creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease with themselves and with high self-esteem.

"What this research really tries to get at is why music is such an important part of people's identity. What is it about music that helps us to define who we are?” the study’s head researcher, Prof. Adrian North, told the Independent.

"People often define their sense of identity through their musical taste, wearing particular clothes, going to certain pubs, and using certain types of slang. It's not so surprising that personality should also be related to musical preference."

"One of the most surprising things is the similarities between fans of classical music and heavy metal. They're both creative and at ease but not outgoing.”

"Aside from their age difference, they're basically the same kind of person," he said. "Lots of heavy metal fans will tell you that they also like Wagner, because it's big, loud and brash. There's also a sense of theatre in both heavy rock and classical music, and I suspect that this is what they're really trying to get at when they listen."

The study is continuing and Prof North, who is head of the university's department of applied psychology, is still looking for participants to take part in a short online questionnaire.

Broken down by genre, here is what your musical tastes say about you:

Rock'n'roll: High self-esteem, creative, hard-working and at ease with themselves, but not very kind or generous.

Indie: Low self-esteem, not hard-working, kind or generous, but creative.

Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing.

Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease with themselves.

Classical: High self-esteem, creative and at ease with themselves, but not outgoing.

Metal: Creative and at ease with themselves, but not very outgoing or hard-working.

Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, kind, generous and at ease with themselves, but not very hard-working.

Country: Hard-working and outgoing.

Dance: Creative and outgoing, but not kind or generous.

This is your chance everyone. Does your favourite music accurately reflect your personality? My love for baroque-blue-eyed-indie-death metal used to pigeonhole me; its nice to see I am not alone in my tribe. I may however have a wicked personality disorder.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Based on your musical tastes, I want you to manage my financial portfolio and walk my dog.

I'm sensing I might have some bipolar issues here - being a lover of indie and electronica, with a smattering of folk pop thrown in, and hey let's not forget antifolk. I guess I'd be an unkind, ungenerous creative slacker, who is outgoing and has low self-esteem. How do you like me so far?

Phronk said...

I'd be interested to see how VARIETY in musical preferences predicts personality. A lot of people don't identify with a single genre, so it's worth digging deeper to see how combinations of genres work.

Sean Wraight said...


Sounds familiar. I may suffer from a similar affliction myself. Nice to know I am not alone.



Therein lies the whole value of this musical assessment. And you are so correct in stating it needs further investigation. I honestly don't know very many people that focus on one genre of music at the exclusion of others.

Interesting assessment nonetheless.

Thanks for stopping by. I've been enjoying your posts of late.