Music plays a key role in our identity. Dr Jason Rentfrow from The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explained in an article on Virgin.com that our teenage years "are often dominated by the need to establish identity, and music is a cheap, effective way to do this”. As we grow up, our taste in music can often change. “The reason teenagers are more likely to listen to aggressive music, and 30 somethings would rather something softer - is due to music being an 'extension' to our personalities, with the rhythm of certain songs reflecting where we are in our lives”, Dr. Rentfrow says.
However, our early impressions and preferences to music are far from fleeting. Our early exposure and connection to melodies, lyrics, and moods embed themselves deep inside us and, as expressed in an article on the 16 Personalities website, create “a filter for the way we see, hear, and understand the world from then on out.”
Research conducted by David Greenberg, a psychologist at University of Cambridge, found that 95% of people can be classified into one of three broad thinking and behavior styles. Type E represents Empathisers who are those who have a strong interest in people’s thoughts and emotions. Type S represents Systemisers who possess a strong interest in patterns, systems and the rules that govern the world. Type B represents those who are more or less equally balanced between the two.
So, what does mean musically? Greenberg surmised that Empathisers preferred mellow music with low energy and sad emotions found in R&B, soft rock, and singer-songwriter genres, while Systemisers preferred more intense music such as hard rock, punk and heavy metal genres. Those who were categorised as Type B preferred music that spanned more of a range than the other two thinking styles.
Elaborating more on genres and their personality characteristics, SONY published a post on the research of Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University who asked 36,000 people around the world to rate 104 musical styles along with their characteristics. While some of the findings may seem obvious others are quite surprising. You can see the results for some of the more popular music genres here.
So, can you make the connection to the music you enjoy and how its shaped your identity and personality? We’d love to hear.