In the movie Begin Again, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) says that you can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist.
But is that actually true? Do our personalities dictate our music preferences?
The Link Between Music and Personalities
A study conducted by the Heriot-Watt university linked certain musical genres to certain personality traits:
- Hip/Hop and Rap Music: Extroverts, outgoing, and have high self-esteem.
- Rap Music: Extroverts, honest, and conventional.
- Heavy Metal/Rock Music: Gentle, creative, introverted, and often have low self-esteem.
- Country Music: Outgoing, conventional, and hardworking.
- Classical Music: Introverted, but at ease with themselves and the world around them.
- Dance Music: Assertive and outgoing.
- Indie Music: Creative, introverted, and intellectual.
What Does the Research Say?
According to research conducted by psychologists Sam Gosling and Jason Rentfrow, your favorite music could be a surprisingly accurate predictor of your personality.
This research revealed that extroverts prefer music with heavy bass lines, while the more creative among us are more into complex styles like classical and jazz. Gosling and Rentfrow have extended their studies to look at the various facets of music that can be tied to preferences.
Music and Cognitive Styles
A second study revealed that the music you prefer may be linked to the way your brain processes information. According to research, we respond to the world in one of two ways: systemizing and empathizing. The former involves interacting based on our preconceived notions about how we should behave in a given situation. Empathizing, meanwhile, involves using social cues to make sense of the world.
In this study, researchers found that empathizing people were likely to prefer contemporary, emotionally rich music such as folk, country, and indie-rock. On the other hand, systemizing people were likely to prefer intense, energetic, and complex music that was positive and upbeat.
Systemizing people are more drawn to the structural complexities of the music, and often enjoy world, jazz, and classical music. Unsurprisingly, these people follow career paths in fields like science and math.
Empathizers, on the other hand, are often lured to more creative fields, or careers that involve interacting with people. These people tend to like softer music that triggers strong emotional responses.
While personality traits may play a role in music preference, it is not the only factor that does. According to a 2010 study involving over 36,000 subjects, some of the other factors that determine music preference include:
- Cultural background
- Income and social class
The next time you put together a playlist, pay attention to your song choices and what they might be revealing about you. Of course, while your personality may play a role in your song choices, several other factors are also generally involved.
You can also consider listening to music you do not normally do; according to research, doing this could have a lasting, positive impact on the brain.