What Your Musical Preferences Say About Your Personality

Maybe Popeye said it best: “I am what I am and that’s all what I am”.  Warm, empathic types tend to like soft rock and mellow jazz.  Detail-oriented people tend to like techno.

This is the latest research to be published in PLOS ONE, which claims that the music we like mirrors our general demeanor.

A group of psychologists, headed by David Greenberg from the University of Cambridge, got over 4,000 participants to answer detailed questions about their thinking styles. They then chose their musical preferences based on 50 different clips of music.

Fascinatingly, people who were deemed as more empathetic loved emotionally deep music, whether it was positive or negative.  And “systemizers” (those with a more logical way of thinking) preferred music with complex instrumentation; anything from classical music to punk rock attracted them.

But there is another side to this research that suggests that Popeye may have had it wrong, or at least that we need to understand his teaching on identity in a wider way.

The same study suggests that many of us may have more musical capability than we imagine – that while we may be whoever we are, there is more to us than we know.  These weren’t simple black-and-white results, rather there was a spectrum of personality just as wide as the musical spectrum, as seen in the graphic below.


Now that is promising.  We are who we are, and that is going to be part of pretty much all that we do.  At the same time, the list of what that includes is longer and richer than we often know.  That sounds more like the God who tells Moses “I will be who I will be”, no?  So perhaps that’s who we are — part God, Popeye!  Could do worse!

Interested in finding out what kind of person you are through music? Check out this quiz designed by the researchers of the study.

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