April 30, 2014, by khyx2lyn

What Does Your Musical Preference Reveal About You?

I’ve always been fascinated by a person’s music preference, from the tunes he/she chose to play in the car to their CD collection. To me a person’s music taste acts as a window to the person’s personality. Intrigued by this notion, I decided to Google for some answers.

The main research that was cited time and time again in this field is that conducted by Professor Adrian North from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK back in 2008. He collected data of more than 36,000 people in over 60 countries for this study where participants were asked to rate a range of musical styles in order of preference and the questionnaire also measured certain aspects of personality.

The findings from the study were summarized as, fans of:

–          Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease

–          Jazz: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, and at ease

–          Classical: High self-esteem, creative, introvert, and at ease

–          Rap: High self-esteem, and outgoing

–          Opera: High self-esteem, creative, and gentle

–          Country & Western: Hardworking and outgoing

–          Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease

–          Dance: Creative, and outgoing but not gentle

–          Indie: Low self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, and not gentle

–          Bollywood:  Creative and outgoing

–          Rock/Heavy metal: Low self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, not outgoing, gentle, and at ease

–          Chart pop: High self-esteem, and hardworking

–          Soul: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease

According to North, individuals define themselves and relate to others through music. Individuals may also define their musical identity by the clothes they wear. Hence, it is not surprising that personality is linked to musical preference. Furthermore, North’s study demonstrated the “tribal function” of musical preference which can explain why individuals bond over music.

Another study by Rentfrow and colleagues (2003) asked 3,500 participants about their musical preferences, their self-perceptions and mental acuity found that one’s musical taste develops according to one’s personality traits. For instance, those who prefer blues, jazz, folk and classical tend to be creative, enjoy abstract ideas and are open to new experiences. Meanwhile, fans of pop, country and religious music are more likely to be extroverted, trusting of others, and hardworking. Alternative, rock and heavy metal fans tend to be physically active and adventurous, while dance and hip-hop fans tend to be more outgoing, agreeable and athletic.

One has to admit that some of these findings coincide with our intuitive beliefs. However, how accurate or true are these findings? Does our preference for certain genres of music really indicate our personality the way North’s study suggested? Based on your musical preference and personality, do you agree with the findings mentioned above?


Yvonne Teoh
(PhD Student, School of Psychology, UNMC)

Posted in behaviourblogmusicnewspostgraduatepsychobabblepsychologyresearchsocial psychologyunmc