11 June 2003

Music mirrors your mind

If music is the food of love, you should take a minute to ask your potential partners about the contents of their CD collection.

If music is the food of love, you should take a minute to ask your potential partners about the contents of their CD collection.

That's the suggestion of a series of six new studies that examined how your personality is reflected in your choice of listening music.

The new research, published in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, asserts that your musical tastes may indeed reflect more about your personality than previously realised.

Unique study provides personality clues
No one has ever really looked at music in quite this way before - our research shows that music preferences can offer some important insights into a person's personality, and might even serve as a tool when trying to learn more about someone, says study author Sam Gosling, a professor at the University of Texas.

From a social point, Gosling says discovering someone's musical tastes may well replace the infamous What's Your Sign singles bar mantra in helping weed out those who don't have partner potential.

It certainly doesn't tell you everything about a person, but it can provide certain clues into their personality and how they feel about themselves, Gosling says.

Only one part of who you are
For New York psychologist Jason Kornrich, using music, or any single factor to judge someone, runs the risk of stereotyping. That said, he also believes the study results show music preferences might be a clue to someone's personality.

Our taste in all areas of pop culture - music, movies, TV shows, books, plays, even our favourite movie or pop stars - says a little something about who we are, and having that information about someone can help us discover who shares our tastes and our likes and dislikes, Kornrich says.

However, he adds it's also important to remember your cultural tastes are only one part of who you are.

You should not be surprised to discover that you can fall in love with someone whose CD collection you just can't stand, Kornrich says.

How the research was conducted
The six studies involved more than 3 500 college students, who self-reported their beliefs about music, their music preferences and how they believed those choices were linked to their personality and their view of themselves.

According to Gosling, the students categorised music into the following classifications: Blues, jazz, classical and folk music was collectively seen as reflective and complex; heavy metal and alternative was viewed as intense and rebellious; country music, sound tracks, religious and general pop song were labelled as upbeat and conventional, and rap/hip-hop, soul/funk and electronic dance music was called energetic and rhythmic. The students then indicated which types of these music styles appealed to them.

In a separate study, they were asked to identify their personality types and how they would describe themselves. The study authors then cross-referenced these answers with earlier answers on music preferences and category types.

A window into a person's soul
Across the board, the way in which students viewed themselves meshed intricately with their musical choices.

For example, says Gosling, students who were extroverted commonly preferred cheerful music with vocals, while those who considered themselves open to new experiences preferred more intricately composed music. Likewise, he says, those who preferred esoteric or complex music viewed themselves as being sophisticated, while those who enjoyed conventional music styles described themselves as having conservative life views. For the students who looked at themselves as physically fit and athletic, the choice was upbeat, rhythmic, even vigorous music.

So this was not just someone else saying 'This type of person listens to this type of music.' This was the students themselves giving their own interpretation of their character traits and their music preferences, Gosling says.

Choice of music also reflects your mood
Now in case you're remembering back to that summer when you fell in love and all you wanted to hear were Beach Boys hits - until your heart was broken in September and all you could bear to listen to was Carole King - well, Gosling says there's a reason for this as well. In still another of the six studies, researchers found your mood at any given moment also influences the type of music you listen to, but usually it comes from your general category of preferences.

When someone in the reflective category is feeling very up, they're likely to choose to listen to lively jazz music, while when they are feeling down or sad, they will switch over to blues. But they usually stay within the same category, Gosling says.

Finally, the researchers say cruising your partner's CD collection may also tell you a little something about their verbal and analytical skills. In still another of the six studies, those students who scored highest on tests measuring these functions frequently said they preferred far more complex music, compared to those who scored lower on these same tests. - (HealthDayNews)

Read more:
Can Mozart make you smart?
Does 'designer music' work?


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