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Study Finds Link Between Music Taste And Personality Traits

Ever wondered what your music choices say about YOU?

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Music is a huge part of a person’s identity. But what if it’s more than just a personal preference or individual quirk? Researchers at Cambridge University have found that liking certain genres of music and musicians can say a lot about what kind of personality a person has. From their study, they’ve found that music taste can tell you if someone is extroverted or introverted, amongst other things. Even more extraordinary, these findings were universal, meaning no matter where in the world someone is from or what gender they may be, if they like a certain genre, they most certainly will have these personality traits.

The research by Cambridge University, which covered 350,000 participants from more than 50 countries across six continents, found that those with a similar personality tended to enjoy the same type of music. The research was led by Dr. David Greenberg, from Cambridge University, who is a musician, neuroscientist, and psychologist. He said:

“We were surprised just how much these patterns between music and personality replicated across the globe. “People may be divided by geography, language, and culture, but if an introvert in one part of the world likes the same music as introverts elsewhere, that suggests that music could be a very powerful bridge.”

The psychological study, titled ‘The Song Is You,’ aimed to evaluate how the main three dimensions of music, arousal (the energy level of music), valence (the range of emotions in music), and depth (the amount of sophistication and emotional depth in music), are linked to the Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Nirvana Neurotics and Ed Sheeran Extroverts

Ahead of the study, Dr. Greenberg’s team accurately predicted that extroverts, people who seek excitement and are highly sociable, would prefer contemporary, upbeat music. In his study, they found that extroverts liked genres such as electro, rap, and pop, and musicians like Ed Sheeran, Beyonce, and Justin Bieber.

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People possessing the trait of ‘agreeableness’, characterized by sympathy and cooperation, displayed a preference for mellow music, such as jazz, blues, and reggae, and artists such as Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye. ‘Open’ people tended to like compositionally complex styles of music, termed ‘sophisticated’, such as jazz. Conscientious individuals, who have traits such as obedience and a need for organization, lean more towards music defined as ‘unpretentious’ in the study. This includes religious music and country styles.

Neurotics, which are people with suppressed anger and high levels of anxiety, enjoyed ‘intense’ styles such as punk rock, especially Nirvana. Its thought that neurotics like intense musical styles as it perhaps reflects inner angst and frustration.

Credit: Stefano Chiacchiarini / Shutterstock

The next time you are putting together a playlist to listen to during your commute or workout, consider how your personality might be reflected in your song choices or which musicians you gravitate towards. You might want to consider listening to different styles of music that you don’t normally choose as research suggests that doing this may actually have a beneficial and lasting impact on the brain.

Written By

Postgraduate student studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. Fandom enthusiast and ex-Wattpad writer.

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