The links between personality traits and musical taste haven’t been explored much, but some studies confirm that they’re indeed related to some degree. Others say not so much. Learn what research says about the relationship between who you are and what you listen to.
In one study, researchers asked more than 36,000 participants worldwide to rate more than 104 different musical styles. The results indicated that personality and musical taste are indeed linked, but other individual differences factor in, too. Here are some of the personality traits the study linked to certain musical styles.
Pop. Extroverted, honest, and conventional. Although pop music lovers were hardworking and had high self-esteem, researchers suggest that they are less creative and more uneasy than those enamored by other musical styles.
Rap/hip hop. Despite the stereotype that rap lovers are aggressive or violent, the researchers found no such link. However, the rap fans tended to have high self-esteem and were generally more outgoing than fans of other styles.
Country. These fans typically identified as hardworking, conventional, outgoing, and conservative. Although country music frequently centers on heartbreak, people who prefer it tended to be emotionally stable. They also ranked lower than others in openness to experience.
Rock/heavy metal. Rock and heavy metal often project images of anger, bravado, and aggression. However, this study found such fans to be gentle, creative, and introverted. They also tended to have low self-esteem.
Indie. Fans of the indie genre registered as introverted, intellectual, and creative, but less hardworking and gentle than fans of other styles. Passivity, anxiousness, and low self-esteem were other notable personality characteristics.
Dance. Those who preferred dance music were typically outgoing, assertive, and open to experience but ranked lower than others in gentleness.
Classical. The study’s classical music lovers were generally somewhat introverted but at ease with themselves. Creativity and healthy self-esteem were common among them.
Jazz, blues, and soul. Extroverted with high self-esteem. They also tend to be very creative, intelligent, and at ease.
The study further suggests that people define themselves through music and use it as a means to relate to other people. This explains why people sometimes feel defensive about their taste in music: A criticism about their music feels like a criticism of them.
Another study found that the music you enjoy might be connected to how your brain processes information. The researchers suggest that people have two ways of responding to the world: based on social cues (empathizing), and based on preset conceptions of how people think they should respond (systemizing).
Empathizers were likely to enjoy mellow but emotionally rich contemporary music ranging from indie rock to country to folk. Many have careers in the arts or helping professions, and they preferred soft music that evokes strong emotional responses.
In contrast, systemizers gravitated toward math and science. They were drawn to structural complexity, often liking classical, jazz, and world music and complex, intense, energetic, upbeat music.
Source: Cherry, K. (2022)
Music Psychology Center