Your taste in music could reveal insights into your personality, according to two studies published in Psychological Science.
Researchers from Cambridge and US universities surveyed more than 21,000 people in two separate online surveys to see how five main personality types known collectively as the Big Five – those that are open-minded, extroverted, agreeable, neurotic, and conscientious – matched up with different genres of music. These included tunes that were mellow, unpretentious, sophisticated, intense, and contemporary.
Previous attempts at finding links between music and personality traits didn’t necessarily represent a wide variety of people because the respondents tended to be younger – thus more likely to share similar music tastes – and had varying definitions of the musical genres they were listening to. This time around, more than half of the respondents were older than 22 and all were presented with 25 unfamiliar musical extracts pre-categorized by musicologists.
“These results corroborate that music – a form of self-expression that is ubiquitous across human cultures – communicates meaningful information about basic psychological characteristics,” said the authors in their study.
So how do the personality types match up? Agreeable people tended to give all musical excerpts higher scores, while those prone to neuroticism marked more harshly.
If you prefer easy-going acoustic music, then you are more likely to be talkative and energetic. On the other hand, people with open personalities tended to like “sophisticated” music defined as “inspiring, complex, and dynamic” and were less interested in slow, mellow music.
If you enjoy a night out at the opera, then you are more likely to be imaginative and insightful. Talkative and energetic extroverts enjoy “unpretentious music”, which tends to be relaxing and acoustic.
The researchers then turned to Facebook as a way to measure personality types and how it relates to their musical preferences by looking at how many “likes” musical artists got. They say their results can also predict a person’s personality based on their musical tastes, and vice versa.
What the study doesn't measure are variables at the person-level, such as where a person might be located, their socioeconomic status, and their culture – all things that could influence what sort of music a person is interested in. Additionally, Facebook likes may be “active, natural-occurring behaviors” but they don’t “automatically reflect what music people are actually listening to.