Is Musical Taste Dictated by Personality?


Researchers have long believed that the music you are exposed to as a child is the type of music you will prefer later in life. While there is certainly evidence to back that up, recent research points to another factor: personality. In other words, the type of music you’ll gravitate towards later in life may already be written in your DNA at birth.

Sound far-fetched? It’s actually backed by some pretty extensive research.

Studying Music and Personality

Professor Adrian North, a researcher from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, spent three years studying over 36,000 people from 60 nations in an attempt to figure out why certain people like certain types of music. North researched the participants’ backgrounds, personality types, and musical preferences in order to find out if the type of tunes they favor can be attributed to the way they act. He found that people with similar personality traits also had similar tastes in music — and some of the characteristics that aligned with certain music genres didn’t make a lot of sense on the surface.

Wonder if his findings will add up with your own life? Take a look at what these different genres of music indicated about the participants in North’s study:

  • Classical fans — These music lovers are introverts, and tend to have high self-esteem. Classical music fans are very creative and have low levels of anxiety.
  • Jazz fans — Outgoing personalities tend to accompany jazz music fans, as well as easygoing attitudes and high self-esteem.
  • Reggae fans — People who prefer reggae music are creative and self-confident. They also tend to be more introverted.
  • Indie fans — Indie listeners are very creative, but may have low self-esteem.
  • Pop hit fans — Pop fans tend to have outgoing and hardworking personalities.
  • Heavy metal fans — These music listeners are classified as outgoing and gentle, with high creativity.
  • Dance fans — People who enjoy dance music tend to be outgoing and creative types.
  • Country/Western fans — These listeners (particularly popular in the U.S.) are outgoing and hardworking.

Music Helps Us Define Ourselves

What is it about each personality type that connects it with a certain type of music? The answers, according to North, make a lot of sense. North says that people define themselves with a certain type of music based on personal factors, like where they grow up and what their parents listen to. They either accept this music as their own, or reject it and go in a completely different direction. Therefore, music is very close to people’s hearts; and that’s why people get so passionate about the types of music they love, and get so defensive if someone disagrees with their preferred genre. It’s why, North says, people dress in certain ways in relation to music, and why musical taste creates its own counterculture of sorts.

Of all the music styles studied, the two groups of listeners who were the most alike were classical and heavy metal fans. At first, this may seem like a disconnect — or even a mistake on the part of the research team — but it actually makes sense, if you really think about it. The level of drama and intensity in both styles takes a certain type of ear to appreciate.

What do you think about this list? Does your personality type line up with the type of music you like? Do any of the personality-music connections surprise you?