What Does Your Taste in Music Reveal About Your Personality? (2024)

Tastes in music vary, and many people believe that the type of music that you love to listen to might actually reveal a lot about your personality. Not only can your musical tastes say something about your personality characteristics, but your traits may play a part in the type of music you are drawn to.

While it isn't uncommon for people to make a connection between a person's listening habits and their personal characteristics, the links between personality traits and musical taste have not been the subject of much empirical research.

However, some studies confirm that there may be some sort of connection—at least, to some degree. Others say not so much. Keep reading to learn more about what research says about the relationship between who you are and what you listen to.

Mere Exposure Effect: How Familiarity Breeds Attraction

Personality Traits and Musical Tastes

Do your preferences for certain genres of music indicate something about your personality? In one older study, researchers asked more than 36,000 participants worldwide to rate more than 104 different musical styles. They also filled out Big 5 personality inventories and provided information about their favorite music.

The results indicated that personality and musical taste are indeed linked, but other individual differences factor in, too. Here are some of the personality traitsthe study linked to certain musical styles.

  • Pop. Extroverted, honest, and conventional. Although pop music lovers were hardworking and had high self-esteem, researchers suggestthat 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 introvertedbut 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.

People can make accurate judgments about an individual's levels of extraversion, creativity, and open-mindedness after listening to 10 of their favorite songs.

Big Five Personality Traits and Musical Preferences

A 2018 study found that looking at people's Facebook likes related to music could accurately predict some personality traits. The study found that:

  • People high in openness had more Facebook likes related to classical, jazz, and opera music
  • Those high in extraversion were more likely to enjoy genres like country and folk music
  • Those high in agreeableness were more likely to enjoy music in general without being drawn to any specific style

A 2022 study found similar results in countries worldwide, suggesting that these connections between musical preferences and personality tend to be universal.

Researchers also suggest that rather than considering just a general musical style or genre, it's more helpful to think about musical preferences in terms of three key elements: arousal, valence, and depth. Arousal refers to the intensity and energy levels of the music, valence refers to the type of emotional response the music evokes, and depth refers to intellectual and emotional complexity.

Punk, hard rock, and metal are high in arousal. Upbeat pop songs are high on valence. Classical and jazz music, for example, are considered high in depth.

According to this approach, people with Big Five traits tend to have the following preferences:

  • Neuroticism: Prefer music that is high in arousal and low in valence
  • Extraversion: Prefer music that is lower in arousal
  • Openness: Prefer music high in valence and depth
  • Agreeableness: Prefer music lower in arousal and valence but higher in depth
  • Conscientiousness: Prefer music lower in arousal and high in depth

The research also found that, in general, people who like a wide variety of music tend to be more extraverted, agreeable, and conscientious. People who are higher in neuroticism tend to have less diverse musical tastes.

Interestingly, researchers have found that people tend to prefer music created by people with personalities similar to their own. For example, people drawn to David Bowie's music often share his open and neurotic traits, the researchers suggest.

Age Also Plays a Role

Evidence indicates that it isn't just personality that plays a big role in shaping musical preferences—age also has an important effect. Musical tastes typically start to form right around adolescence, which is a time when people are also exploring and forming other important aspects of their social identity.

Researchers have found that people tend to prefer music that they loved during their teen years. It's why those hits you used to love in high school tend to hit so hard, even decades later. Evidence has also found that people tend to recall the music they listened to during their teens and early adult years (from about age 10 to age 30) most easily.

Cognitive Styles and Musical Taste

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 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 prefer 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.

Not all research supports the idea that personality traits play a role in determining musical preferences, however. One 2017 meta-analysis found that personality traits played very little of a role in accounting for these individual differences.

Music's Psychological Functions

Music serves a range of psychological functions. In addition to its links to personality, research has found that music is also associated with:

  • Health
  • Health behaviors
  • Arousal
  • Mood
  • Social connection
  • Physical activity
  • Relaxation
  • Cognitive functions
  • Identity

People also engage in a range of musically related activities. These include listening to music, sharing music, playing instruments, singing in groups, writing lyrics, rapping, dancing, songwriting, and composing.

Different activities are associated with different benefits and effects. Listening to music, for example, can help reduce pain. Sharing music with others is a way to enhance social connection. Playing an instrument is connected to positive effects on mental well-being and cognitive function.

What Are Your Dominant Traits? Try Our Quiz

Our fast and free personality test can help give you an idea of your dominant personality traits and how they may influence your behaviors.

This personality test was reviewed Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS

Takeaways

Researchers are still figuring out just how personality and musical tastes are connected, but the available evidence suggests that there is a universal connection between the music people enjoy and their personality traits. So, the next time you're putting together a playlist for your commute or workout, consider how your personality might be reflected in your song choices. Try listening to styles of music that you don't normally prefer; research suggests that this can have a lasting positive impact on the brain.

The Psychological Benefits of Music

What Does Your Taste in Music Reveal About Your Personality? (2024)
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