Music Preferences and Your Personality

What Your Music Taste Says About You

a young man smiling outside while listening to music

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The links between personality traits and musical taste haven't been explored much, but some studies confirm that they're indeed related to some degree. Others say not so much. Learn what research says about the relationship between who you are and what you listen to.

Personality Traits and Musical Tastes

In one study, researchers asked more than 36,000 participants worldwide to rate more than 104 different musical styles. They also filled out Big 5 personality inventories and provided information about their favorite music. The results indicated that personality and musical taste are indeed linked, but other individual differences factor in, too. Here are some of the personality traits the study linked to certain musical styles.

  • Pop. Extroverted, honest, and conventional. Although pop music lovers were hardworking and had high self-esteem, researchers suggest that they are less creative and more uneasy than those enamored by other musical styles.
  • Rap/hip hop. Despite the stereotype that rap lovers are aggressive or violent, the researchers found no such link. However, the rap fans tended to have high self-esteem and were generally more outgoing than fans of other styles.
  • Country. These fans typically identified as hardworking, conventional, outgoing, and conservative. Although country music frequently centers on heartbreak, people who prefer it tended to be emotionally stable. They also ranked lower than others in openness to experience.
  • Rock/heavy metal. Rock and heavy metal often project images of anger, bravado, and aggression. However, this study found such fans to be gentle, creative, and introverted. They also tended to have low self-esteem.
  • Indie. Fans of the indie genre registered as introverted, intellectual, and creative, but less hardworking and gentle than fans of other styles. Passivity, anxiousness, and low self-esteem were other notable personality characteristics.
  • Dance. Those who preferred dance music were typically outgoing, assertive, and open to experience but ranked lower than others in gentleness.
  • Classical. The study's classical music lovers were generally somewhat introverted but at ease with themselves. Creativity and healthy self-esteem were common among them.
  • Jazz, blues, and soul. Extroverted with high self-esteem. They also tend to be very creative, intelligent, and at ease.

The study further suggests that people define themselves through music and use it as a means to relate to other people. This explains why people sometimes feel defensive about their taste in music: A criticism about their music feels like a criticism of them.

People can make accurate judgments about an individual's levels of extraversion, creativity, and open-mindedness after listening to 10 of their favorite songs.

Predictions of Personality Traits

The results of a study by psychologists Jason Rentfrow and Sam Gosling suggest that the music people listen to can lead to surprisingly accurate predictions about their personalities.

For example, extroverts preferred heavy bass lines in the study, whereas those who enjoy more complex styles such as jazz and classical music are creative and have higher IQ-scores. Rentfrow and Gosling have extended their studies to look at specific facets of music linked to preferences.

Cognitive Styles and Musical Taste

Another study found that the music you enjoy might be connected to how your brain processes information. The researchers suggest that people have two ways of responding to the world: based on social cues (empathizing), and based on preset conceptions of how people think they should respond (systemizing).

Empathizers were likely to enjoy mellow but emotionally rich contemporary music ranging from indie rock to country to folk. Many have careers in the arts or helping professions, and they preferred soft music that evokes strong emotional responses.

In contrast, systemizers gravitated toward math and science. They were drawn to structural complexity, often liking classical, jazz, and world music and complex, intense, energetic, upbeat music. 

Not all research supports the idea that personality traits play a role in determining musical preferences, however. One 2017 meta-analysis found that personality traits played very little of a role in accounting for these individual differences.

Music's Functions

Music is an important way to express identity. One study further suggests other key psychological functions:

  • Improving performance
  • Stimulating curiosity and imagination
  • Amplifying certain moods or emotions

The study indicated that gender, age, social class, and cultural background also play important roles in musical taste.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you're putting together a playlist for your commute or workout, consider how your personality might be reflected in your song choices. Try listening to styles of music that you don't normally prefer; research suggests that this can have a lasting positive impact on the brain.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. North AC. Individual differences in musical tasteThe American Journal of Psychology. 2010;123(2):199-208. doi:10.5406/amerjpsyc.123.2.0199

  2. Rentfrow PJ, Gosling SD. The do re mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferencesJournal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003;84(6):1236-1256. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.6.1236

  3. Schäfer T, Mehlhorn C. Can personality traits predict musical style preferences? A meta-analysisPersonality and Individual Differences. 2017;116:265-273. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.04.061

  4. Chamorro-Premuzic T, Furnham A. Personality and music: Can traits explain how people use music in everyday lifeBritish Journal of Psychology. 2007;98(2):175-185. doi:10.1348/000712606X111177

  5. Wong PCM, Chan AHD, Roy A, Margulis EH. The bimusical brain is not two monomusical brains in one: Evidence from musical affective processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2011;23(12):4082-4093.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.