Is music taste an indicator of personality?


Pop, Hip-Hop, Classical, Rock, Alternative, Metal, Punk.  All genres of music, and everyones taste in them is different.  Some people might be drawn towards pop and rock while others stick only to metal.  But do these preferences reveal anything about our personality and the way that we behave in our everyday life?  This has been a question that is at the heart of many studies, and is something that to this day continues to not be totally understood.


The first study that looked into the link between music preference and personality came in 1953, when researcher Cattell and partner Anderson created the I.P.A.T. personality test ( Cattell)  Through this study they created 12 different personality traits that could be deciphered from peoples enjoyment in certain parts of music.  Further the idea that music causes personality, a 1999 study showed that people used music as a platform to communicate their social values.  (North) However, there are some confounding issues with these studies.  They found issues with self esteem playing a large role into how people perceive music relating to themselves.  They were also studying limited genres of music, specifically in the Cattell study they were only asking how people felt about certain parts of jazz and classical songs as opposed to whole genres.

Still, these studies point out that there is a potential underlying link between personality and music preference.  A comprehensive study conducted by Peter Rentfrow (Rentfrow) at the University of Texas studied undergraduate students and how their music preferences effect their lives.  The majority of students put music as the most important cultural impact on their life, something that has been proven to affect your personality.  They also said that for themselves and others, music is the most important thing that affects their personality, placed above any other form of media.

This study was conducted of many smaller studies that set apart individual genres of music, had participants tell how they felt about those genres, explain what parts of that music was appealing to them, and finally finding a link between them and personality.  Below is the final chart that showed the relation between personality and music types, as was presented in the study.


Image from Rentfrow Study


Ultimately, the study found that there is a link and that it is fairly direct.  Individuals who liked upbeat exciting music tended to be more rebellious and risky in their life compared to people who enjoy mellow music.  One example given in the article is that students who enjoyed upbeat music found themselves to be more attractive and have a higher self esteem, and were also politically more liberal compared to students with different musical preferences.  I would say that this wasn’t different to what I expected, generally people I know who like “faster” music are more into party scenes and as a result see themselves as more popular and likeable.

In conclusion, these studies show that there is a link between music preference and personality, and the link is fairly strong.  I think this is largely caused by the fact that music plays such a major role in our lives and anything you spend that much time on is bound to have an impact on you.  So think about what types of music you listen to and see if it correlates to what they found in the study, maybe it will tell you more about yourself then you thought possible.



6 thoughts on “Is music taste an indicator of personality?

  1. Brian A Vargas

    Great post, I can definitely see a correlation in music and personality. Music has always played a role in my life. It has affected many things from my mood to the way I dress, fashion goes hand in hand with many genres of music. And if you look at how fashion has evolved within a certain genre you can see how artists have major influence over the fans. This leads to the fans trying to replicate the style of the current culture of the genre, and as that evolves over the years so do the fans. I find that the way you dress is an expression of your personality and mood. Artist such as Pharrell had a major impact over the hip-hop culture around 2005, from the brands people bought to how they acted. I would say a Kanye West or Drake is a great example of this today, people like to listen to music that coincides with how they feel or what relate to. This article I found showed correlation with music and things such as self-esteem, creativeness, outgoing, and introvert people. All of these things can change a persons personality but its not guaranteed to, especially in a time like now where its good to be different and separate yourself from others.

  2. Charles Hart

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I wrote about something similar, it was about if music choice makes you walk to class faster or slower ( It found that music did high tempo music made you walk faster. However, a problem I had with the study conducted in my study was a potential for bias. I feel your study could struggle with the same thing. It could be possible that these people already have preconceived notions about music and personality and that is why they are answering the questions the way they are. One way to eliminate bias in this experiment would be to only ask them what kind of music they listen to. A week later, have a different scientist ask these people about their personality so that they do not associate music and personality with preconceived notions.

  3. Maura Katherine Maguire

    Wow really great post! It kept me interested the entire time while reading it. This subject is completely relatable and really got me thinking. I tend to notice my moods and feelings changing when I listen to different kinds of music and I believe this correlates with personalities. I tend to listen to upbeat fast music which I believe keeps me upbeat and positive in my everyday life.

  4. Mackenzie French

    Great post. Super interesting thought, that I never put together. I love music, both upbeat and calm, depending on the day and activity. But based off your research I am not sure I believe that music determines your personality. Yes it may correlate but I think it is more anecdotal. I agree with Danielle’s comment above that a better way to put it would say that music can be a factor effecting one’s mood. I think it’s up to the individual whether or not it makes their personality change. Another idea about music I always wonder if it actually helps you study or if it distracts your mind. Here is an article talking about research done on it.

  5. Olivia Anne Browne

    I think this is a great post. Highly relatable. I am always listening to music. The only thing I must say is I have a large range of preferences. There are many times where I am listening to ” girly” upbeat pop music, and other times where I am listening to hardcore rap and loving that too. I do think it has a correlation with your personality but I also think their are other factors that play into it. Getting ready to go out I put on a specific playlist where as when I am relaxing at night with my friends. I think a lot of it has to do with the moment, and from that moment I think can describe your personality as well! Loved reading about this.
    Check out this article on how music can change your mood.

  6. Danielle Megan Sobel

    This post was really interesting to me. Although it focused a little bit on psychology, it made me think about how it related to my day-to-day living. Usually, when I am getting ready to go to my friends house or apartment, I will listen to upbeat music. However, if I am studying, reading, or writing blogs I will listen to slower music (I prefer old Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz). This blog post could have been linked to the class discussions more closely, however, I really enjoyed the topic. I think music can be more of an indicator of MOOD rather than personality, but that is just my opinion.

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