The Links Between Personality and Musical Taste

A recent article in The Independent outlined some recent research on why we like certain types of music-stating our likes are clearly linked to our personalities. It stated:

 Why does some music bring us to tears while other pieces make us dance? Why is it that the music that we like can make others agitated? And why do some people seem to have a natural ability to play music while others have difficulty carrying a tune? Science is beginning to show that these individual differences are not just random but are, in part, due to people’s personalities.

Drawing on their PhD research, the authors assert that it is possible to classify our engagement with music into three categories

Empathisers (Type E) have a strong interest in people’s thoughts and emotions. Systemisers (Type S) have a strong interest in patterns, systems and the rules that govern the world. And those who score relatively equally on empathy and systemising are classified as Type B for “balanced”.

The data displayed empathisers to prefer mellow music that had low energy, sad emotions, and emotional depth, while systemisers preferred more ‘intense’ music, in addition to music with ‘intellectual depth and complexity’.

Interestingly, the research also appears to make links between personality and musical ability and most importantly, between musical taste and and the way we think, making it potentially Important research for music therapy.

This offers an interesting addition to the the impact of music on us. I seem to be what the research classifies as ‘Type B’ – somewhere between the two extremes, although I need to think further on how this impacts my musical tastes and ability. I would be interested what classification other musicians fall in to – my hunch is that it will be ‘Type B’?

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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