“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
Music is everywhere. It is impossible to ignore it or avoid it. It has played a significant role in every civilization and people’s sense of identity. As Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols: “Without music, life would be a mistake”. I remember back in the day when I got my first mp3 player and how good I felt about the fact that I was able to take my music everywhere with me. Along with it I also received a software, which could analyze my whole music library and sort out songs according to mood. Mood is associated with emotions and emotions are what brings us to music in the first place, so there must be some connection between our musical taste and our personality.
Music is more than just entertainment. If we scratch beneath the surface we’ll find that music is even more delicate and personal than we think. There are numerous scientific disciplines – most of them relatively young – aiming to understand and explain our perception of music and its connection to the human psyche. It is scientifically proven that music has influence on cognitive skills, learning, working memory, way of thinking, and personal and social development – just to name a few.
The main question is why do we listen to music in the first place?
The answer couldn’t be simpler – because music gives us pleasure – and this statement is scientifically supported. Music makes the brain release dopamine, the“feel good chemical”, that gives us pleasure. Music affects us psycho-physiologically as well.
When listening to our favorite songs, our body betrays all the symptoms of emotional arousal. The pupils in our eyes dilate, our pulse and blood pressure rise, the electrical conductance of our skin is lowered, and the cerebellum –a brain region associated with bodily movement – becomes strangely active. Blood is even re-directed to the muscles in our legs. (Some speculate this is why we begin tapping our feet.) In other words, sound stirs us at our biological roots… – Jonah Lehrer
But what does it say about our personality?
“We have always suspected a link between music taste and personality. This is the first time that we’ve been able to look at it in real detail. No-one has ever done this on this scale before,” he said.
People from all over the world were asked to rate 104 musical styles and also questioned about aspects of their personality. Surprisingly, psychologists have found that classical aficionados share identical personality traits with metal fans. Professor Adrian North admits he was surprised by the findings:
“Apart from the age differences, they were virtually identical. Both were more creative than other people, both were not terribly outgoing and they were also quite at ease.”
The results showed that:
Blues fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease.
Jazz fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing and at ease.
Classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introverted and at ease.
Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing.
Opera fans have high self-esteem, are creative and gentle.
Country and western fans are hardworking and outgoing.
Reggae fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease, but not hardworking.
Dance fans are creative and outgoing but not gentle.
Indie fans have low self-esteem, are creative, but not hardworking or gentle.
Bollywood fans are creative and outgoing.
Rock/heavy metal fans have low self-esteem, are creative, gentle and at ease, but not hardworking or outgoing.
Chart pop fans have high self-esteem, are hardworking, outgoing and gentle, but are not creative or at ease.
Soul fans have high self-esteem, are creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease.
In addition, a research conducted by Department of Information and Communication Studies at Bunkyo University in Chigasaki, Japan was looking to find more about the link between personality profiles and music genre preferences among Japanese students. Unlike the above, this research focused on merely 12 music genres, 6 dimensions and 24 facets of personality. Results indicated that, openness to experience and particularly the facet of aesthetic appreciation were associated with a preference for reflective music (jazz, classical, opera, gospel, enka), while one extroversion facet – sociability – was associated with the preference for pop music.
Furthermore, according to Chamorro-Premuzic, Fagan and Furnham, People rating high in extroversion tend to like social, happy music like pop, hip hop/rap, and electronic music. Extroverts tend to listen to music more and have background music present in their lives more often. Surprisingly, males tended to like sad music and use music for cognitive purposes more than females did.
According to UK-based 7digital’s review, pop and rock were the best selling music genres in the UK in 2012. Pop was the most dominant genre the year before as well. In the US hip hop/rap and pop were the most popular.