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Music Preferences Linked to Personality: Study
Fri Jun 6, 4:38 PM ET
By Natalie Engler
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The music you listen to may say more about you than you think, according to new research findings that suggest that our choice in music reflects our personalities.
Do you enjoy blues, jazz, classical and folk music? You may be intelligent, tolerant and politically liberal, researchers report.
Meanwhile, country and religious music fans tend to be cheerful, outgoing, reliable and conventional, while alternative and heavy metal music lovers tend to be physically active, curious risk-takers.
As for rap/hip-hop and dance music fans? They are often outgoing, agreeable people who generally eschew conservative ideals, according to a report in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The findings help explain why people who meet at parties often ask one another about their favorite music or bands, study author Dr. Peter J. Rentfrow told Reuters Health. "It assumes that knowing the answer tells you something about who they are" and whether or not to pursue a relationship, added Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin.
The results, noted Rentfrow, could have implications for not just dating and friendships, but for marketing, too. Already advertisers use music to entice certain types of people to buy their products.
"We might come up with typologies comprised of music preferences, socioeconomic status, and age," he told Reuters Health.
Online merchant Amazon.com, among other Web sites, tracks customers' purchasing history and browsing patterns and compares their habits with those of others in order to come up with product recommendations. While the company chose not to disclose data indicating the success of this approach, a spokesperson told Reuters Health that it is "well suited to music, where tastes don't change much over time."
Common sense? Perhaps. On the other hand, said Rentfrow, the study may reveal insights into "the mundane."
"Sometimes the most obvious things are hardest for researchers to see," he told Reuters Health. "That's why there's so little research on music preferences and personality. Because it's something we take for granted."
To look at the relationship between music preferences and personality traits, Rentfrow and Texas colleague Dr. Samuel D. Gosling conducted six studies on over 3,500 students. They examined the students' beliefs about music, their music preferences, self-perceptions and cognitive abilities.
Their findings suggest that personality, self-perception and cognitive ability each play a role in the "formation and maintenance of music preferences," they write.
SOURCE: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003;84:1236-1254.
What exactly would that make my personality?
I'm a physically active, curious risk taker who's outgoing and agreeable? I'm not really sure that that sounds like me. And what about video game music and anime music? What about goth? What about filk? Does that count as folk or something else? Where exactly does Weird Al fit in?
If you were going to manufacture a personality from my music tastes, you'd get some kind of really fucked up chimera. I'm really curious about what the methodology of the experiment was, i can see a lot of potential problems with the experiement, and i wonder how they avoided them, or if they even tried.