From Mozart to Metallica: What Your Music Taste Says About Your Personality

Did you know that the type of music you listen to is closely linked to your personality? You might be saying to yourself right now, ”No kidding. Everyone knows that.”

But did you know that researchers can now predict your personality type with surprising accuracy by knowing which music genres you listen to? Recent studies over the past five years have made great strides in establishing relationships between what’s in someone’s playlist and their levels of extraversion, creativity and open-mindedness. Many researchers can peg your personality type in as few as 10 songs, even your political views.

Plus, researchers have found that the types of music you listen to are linked to the way you process information from your surroundings.

Let’s take a look at two studies and what they can tell you about your personality from the type of music you listen to.

Music and Your Personality Type

The largest study to date was undertaken by Professor Adrian North, then of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Over a period of three years, Professor North asked over 36,000 people in more than 60 countries to rate a range of musical styles in order of preference. The questionnaire also measured certain aspects of personality. Here is what the results showed:

  • Classical – fans of classical music tend to be introverted, have high self-esteem, are creative, and are at ease with the world and their surroundings.
  • Opera – fans of opera music tend to be gentle, are creative and have high self-esteem.
  • Jazz – jazz music fans are outgoing, at ease with the world, have high self-esteem and are creative, tendency towards liberal views.
  • Blues – fans of blues music are both gentle and at ease with the world, are creative and outgoing.
  • Country/Western – fans of country and western are hard-working, outgoing, tend towards emotional stability, and are conservative.
  • Rock/heavy metal – rock and heavy metal fans tend to be driven, athletic, gentle, and suffer from low self-esteem.
  • Hip/Hop and Rap – fans of hip/hop and rap tend to be outgoing and have high self-esteem, are politically liberal and tend to be forgiving.
  • Pop/Chart Pop – Pop fans have high self-esteem, are outgoing, gentle, and hard-working, but tend to be not creative and not at ease.
  • Reggae – fans of reggae music have high self-esteem, are outgoing, gentle, at ease, creative but not hard-working.
  • Indie – Indie fans are creative, not hard-working, not gentle and have low self-esteem.
  • Soul – fans of soul music have high self-esteem, are creative, gentle and at ease, and outgoing.

Professor North stated in his research that people define themselves through the music they listen to, which would explain why they get defensive when asked about the types of music they like. His goal was to study why music is such a significant part of a person’s identity.

This study also demonstrated the tribal function of musical taste and explained why people often bond over music. More information is published in his book “The Social and Applied Psychology of Music”, co-written with D.J. Hargreaves.

Music and the Way Your Process Information

A recent study published in PLOS ONE found that the music you like can say a lot about how your brain processes information.

The study is based off the premise that there are two ways people respond to their surroundings. The first way is called empathizing, characteristic of someone who is socially apt and can easily interact with those around them. The second way is systemizing, which is a less sociable way of interacting with others. A systemizer interacts based on a preset-notion of how they think they should act.

An example of the difference between an empathizer and a systemizer can be explained this way: if asked whether or not a dress looks nice on a friend, the empathizer would say what they think will make their friend feel good while a systemizer would tell the truth without considering their friend’s feelings.

The research showed that empathetic people like mellow music (from soft rock, R&B and adult contemporary), unpretentious (country, folk and singer/songwriter) or contemporary tunes (Latin, electronica, acid jazz, and Euro pop) – not complex in nature or in-your-face type of music. Empathetic people like music that expresses emotions, both positive or negative, and have a dislike for punk and heavy metal.

Systematizing people tended towards high-energy tunes that conveyed positive emotions. Such music includes heavy metal, rock or even complicated classical pieces. Systematizers enjoy music with a high degree of cerebral depth.

A third category of people have a mix of both types of music taste. Their answers to the research questions did not show a clear distinction between empathizing and systematizing and they show a balanced personality type.

Here is a graph of the kind of music that empathizers (Type E), balanced (Type B) and systemizers (Type S) liked. A more positive score indicates that the people in a group liked that particular characteristic of music. Conversely, the more negative the score, the less desired that particular characteristic is.


(image credit: Plos One)

Music is very important to us as a people. The average American listens to music more than five hours per day. We use music as a tool to alter our mood and enhance our lives or just to pass the time.

By understanding your musical preferences and how your identity is shaped by music, you can choose the right music for you in just the right dose at just the right time to enjoy your life more fully.


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