Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Personality and Music Preferences

This article is pretty frickin' interesting (HT: Sullivan). I always had a pet theory that you should be able to learn about someone's personality by their music preferences. I bet a lot of people had that theory. It turns out there's some data to back it up. Factor analysis on musical preference data yields four large dimensions along which music preference tends to vary:
  1. "Reflective and Complex," which included the genres blues, jazz, classical, and folk
  2. "Intense and Rebellious," which included rock, alternative, and heavy metal
  3. "Upbeat and Conventional," including country, sound tracks, religious, and pop
  4. "Energetic and Rhythmic," including rap and hip/hop, soul and funk, as well as electronica and dance.


...they looked at the correlation between the different dimensions of musical preferences and different personality traits using several different measures of personality, including the Big Five Index, tests of social dominance, and tests of communication styles. The results indicated that the different dimensions of musical preferences do in fact correlate with different personality features. Here's a summary of the results (from pp. 1248-1249):

  • Reflective and Complex: positively correlated with openness to experience, "self-perceived intelligence," verbal ability, emotional stability, and political liberalism. Negatively correlated with "social dominance orientation," political conservatism, wealth, and athleticism.
  • Intense and Rebellious: positively correlated with openness to experience, extroversion, athleticism, "self-perceived intelligence,""social dominance orientation," and verbal ability.
  • Upbeat and Conventional: positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-esteem, political conservatism, physical attractiveness (self-perceived), wealth, and athleticism. Negatively correlated with emotional stability, openness to experience, "social dominance orientation," depression, political liberalism, intelligence, and verbal ability.
  • Energetic and Rhythmic: Positively correlated with extraversion, agreeableness, political liberalism, physical attractiveness, and athleticism. Negatively correlated with "social dominance orientation" and political conservatism.

In short, people who listen to jazz are smart, liberal, adventurous, and poor; people who listen to heavy metal are smart, liberal, adventurous, athletic, and prone to social dominance; people who listen to Madonna or the "Dancing With Wolves" soundtrack are agreeable, conscientious, conservative, rich, happy, dumb, emotionally unstable, and hot; and people who listen to hip hop are extraverted, agreeable, liberal, athletic, and hot. Well, those are the tendencies at least (I've known some smart Madonna fans, though I have to say that they were pretty emotionally unstable).

Looking at the four dimensions above, I would guess my preferences are pretty strong on #1 (and increasing as I get older), moderately strong on #2, (but decreasing with age), fairly weak on #3, and very weak on #4. This does seem to correlate well with what I think my personality is.

The article goes on to examine how people use music preferences to judge other people, and how there is some accuracy in doing so. Fascinating. So I guess the take-away from all this is: list lots of specific music preferences in your profile, as this is very useful personality information.


Blogger Anthony said...

So what happens when you have an eclectic taste in music? MPD? Unformed personality?

11:29 AM, March 14, 2007  
Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

This doesn't seem to fit me very well.

11:47 AM, March 14, 2007  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I don't buy this. First, there's way too much overlap in the personality categories, making them not that useful. Second, I wonder who they studied that jazz and classical music were NOT associated with wealth. That certainly hasn't been my experience - I've observed that people who love classical and jazz tend to be quite well off, or at least of a higher SES (i.e. could have high SES due to education but relatively modest income). Third, how does age factor into all of this? When I was younger, I could tolerate some screaming in my music, and "moshing" in my dancing, but now I prefer mellower tunes and the thought of bumping up against sweaty strangers is a lot less appealing - has my personality changed? Or am I just growing older much in the same way that most folks do?

6:25 PM, March 14, 2007  
Anonymous Mad Latinist said...

I'm the opposite. Fsr, the older I get, the more I tolerate screaming in my music. I must be broken or something.

8:53 PM, March 14, 2007  

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