HomeEntertainmentMusicMusical taste may be influenced by personality traits, resarchers say

Musical taste may be influenced by personality traits, resarchers say

Have you wondered why you love a particular song or genre of music? The answer may lie in your personality, although other factors also come into play, researchers say.

Many people tend to form their musical identity in adolescence, around the same time that they explore their social identity. Preferences can change over time, but research shows that: people especially love music from their teenage years and call up music from a certain age period — 10 to 30 years with a peak at 14 — easier.

Music taste is often identified by preferred genres, but a more accurate way to understand preferences is through musical attributes, researchers say. A model sketches three dimensions of musical attributes: excitement, valence and depth.

“Arousal is linked to the amount of energy and intensity in the music,” said David M. Greenberg, a researcher at Bar-Ilan University and the University of Cambridge. Punk and heavy metal songs like Five Finger Death Punch’s “White Knuckles” were high on excitement, a study by Greenberg and other researchers found.

“Valence is a spectrum,” he says, from negative to positive emotions. Lively rock and pop songs such as “Razzle Dazzle” by Bill Haley & His Comets were held in high esteem.

Depth denotes “both a level of emotional and intellectual complexity,” Greenberg says. “We found that rapper Pitbull’s music would have little depth, [and] classical and jazz music can be very deep.”

Also, musical attributes have interesting relationships with each other. “Great depth is often correlated with lower valence, so sadness in music also evokes depth,” he says.

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We prefer music from artists whose personalities we identify with. “When people listen to music, they’re driven by how similar that artist is to themselves,” Greenberg says.

In his 2021 study, participants assessed artists’ personality traits using the Big 5 model: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (OCEAN). For the respondents, David Bowie showed high openness and neuroticism; while Marvin Gaye showed high Agreeableness.

“The match between the [personality of the] listener and artist were predictive of the artist’s musical preferences beyond just the attributes of the music,” says Greenberg.

Personality traits can predict people’s musical tastes, researchers say. In a 2022 study, Greenberg and his colleagues found that despite sociocultural differences, participants around the world showed personality traits that were consistently correlated with their preference for certain genres of Western music. For example, extraversion was linked to a preference for upbeat contemporary music and Openness was linked to a preference for sophisticated or cerebral styles.

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Our cognitive styles and how we think can also predict what kinds of music we like. A 2015 study by Greenberg and colleagues distinguishes between systemizers and empathizers — people who understand the world through thoughts and emotions versus people who are interested in rules and systems. “Empathists tend to prefer sadness in music, while: [systemizers] prefer more intensity in musicGreenberg said. “A lot of that [and] data science professionals [are] high on systemizing and also prefer really intense music.”

Also, both empathists and systemists listen to music with a high depth, but empathists prefer attributes that represent emotional depth, and systemizers prefer attributes that represent intellectual depth and technical complexity.

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While personality can be one determinant of our musical preferences, another can be context. Minsu Park and his colleagues identified temporal patterns in listening behavior – people tend to listen to relaxing music in the evening and energetic music during the day. “This fluctuation is almost identical regardless of your cultural location and other demographic information,” said Park, an assistant professor of social research and public policy at New York University Abu Dhabi.

However, there is a baseline difference between people from different cultures. In Latin America people listen to “more uplifting music compared to other people in other regions”, and in Asia they listen to “more relaxing music”. [than] people in other regions,” says Park.

Age and gender are also linked to certain types of music. Younger people often like intense music and older people hate it, according to research by Greenberg. Listeners of soft music tend to be women, and listeners to intense music tend to be men and from the western hemisphere.

There are also age trends in the way people interact with music.

A 2013 study examining data from two studies of more than a quarter of a million individuals found that “Young people listen to music significantly more often than middle-aged adultsand young people listen to music in a wide variety of contexts, while adults mainly listen to music in private contexts.”

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Personality can influence our music taste, but it is important to note that changes in music taste do not indicate a change in personality. Even if we change what we listen to, we implicitly remain the same people.

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“An introverted person may change over time…but ultimately their core [and] base will be introversion,” says Greenberg.

Greenberg created a quiz with 35 questions that provides insight into personality and musical preferences. To take the test, visit this site.



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