Our musical tastes reveal our personality

Is it true that our musical tastes reveal our personality? Music is part of our everyday life. It surrounds us, involves us, and moves us. But if there is no doubt about its universal value, it must be considered that music is also experienced by each of us in an absolutely personal way. This is because, to influence our relationship with it, individual factors come into play: personal tastes.

Why do we like some music while others we find unbearable? Why do others like it and not us? Or vice versa? What determines our tastes?

How our brain scans a melody

 Normally, when you hear a song, it takes a few seconds to classify it with a like or not-like but rarely is this judgment based on artistic or technical evaluations: it depends rather on instinct, our personality, and identity.

In listening to a piece, our brain immediately makes an evaluation of the piece itself by examining the information that comes to it and that takes on different meanings depending on who we are, the experiences we have had, the level of musical knowledge we have, and so on.

In addition to listening to the rhythm, the melody, the instruments used in the performance and the voice of the singer, factors come into play that depend on our personal identity. This consists of the representation we have of ourselves in the world and manifests itself through our personality. It tells the story of our life, the path we have taken, the people we have had near, the situations we have lived and leads us to have a certain way of thinking that, in turn, conditions our choices at all levels, even on the musical plane.

Each of us has a personality and physiological reactions that lead us to appreciate a certain type of music and not to like another.

There are no better or worse musical genres.  There are only different personalities with different preferences, also influenced by the social context in which they are located and by other elements such as experiences made by children, that can address a certain type of music and a certain type of emotional quest.

Personalities and musical choices

The study of psychological aspects related to listening to music has developed especially in the last decade. Musicology, psychology, and neuroscience have recently been interested in the mechanisms that are involved in the development of musical preferences. Parameters within the music, such as time, mode, or complexity, and external parameters, such as age, gender, personality, or listener education have been identified, as well as different types of music that perform different functions.

Considering that music also has the function of regulating emotions in everyday life, personality and intelligence can then determine the type of use we decide to make, the way it is chosen, and the expectations related to listening.

From a person who is considered intellectual and thoughtful,  we expect him to use music rationally rather than emotionally to reach higher levels of cognitive processing. We can easily think that it will be oriented towards classical or jazz music from which we expect more complex intellectual stimulations.

Always studying the characteristic influences on musical choices, it has been discovered how for the extroverts the music serves to raise the level of excitement, for example when they are engaged in boring and repetitive tasks (from study to domestic chores to sport) while in the introverts it often represents an interference with other cognitive processes in progress.

Musical tastes as a way of communication

Why do we like a song? Because it is beautiful, you might think. Or because it meets the characteristics of what we consider beautiful. But it’s not that simple. As we know, music not only has an entertainment function but it is a real form of communication and not only who plays or sings a song does it to convey a message. Even those who listen to it use the language it contains to communicate something!

We are what we listen to

It is therefore certain that personal choices are also influenced by the surrounding environment, by the social contexts in which one lives, as well as by the individual predispositions proper to each individual. The music we choose becomes in a sense a calling card that communicates to others something about us.

But that’s not all: identifying ourselves in a genre makes us feel part of a world that shares those ideas and values giving us the opportunity to confirm our personal identity.

If we associate certain characteristics to a certain type of music, and consequently to the listener, it is likely that the choice of a certain type of music also depends on the message we want to send to others, the way we want to be seen.

A scientific study

The relationship between music and personality has been studied in research conducted by the University of Cambridge through the Musical Universe project, which aims to explain how character and psychological factors are able to influence our musical choices. The first interesting fact that has emerged is that we listen to a certain type of music that we are consciously attracted to it because we want to communicate a certain type of information about ourselves.

To find out their score on musical abilities, preferences, and personality, researchers have studied a special test available to everyone (www.musicaluniverse.org) at the end of which you can decide whether to make the results available to research.

A mirror that reveals who we are

The musical choices of each of us provide valuable elements on our tastes to the point that some platforms also use them to propose suggestions for purchase of the most disparate types that, based on our choices, should approach what are our tastes in food, travel, reading and much more.

In the same way, the music that they listen to becomes an element that we use to make a judgment on them based on the stereotypes that we have created on the characteristics associated with any kind of music.

We can ask ourselves how right it is to make a judgment on someone based on their musical tastes and how much this has actually been reflected. Again, much depends on individual values.

Determining this is the importance a person attributes to the music. If we are passionate about music, someone who loves a musical genre that we do not like, will,  at first glance,  not arouse a positive judgment in us. We will struggle to feel similar to him. It is not to be excluded that if our association with this person were to continue, this difference in taste might actually have its own weight.

It would be different, of course, if music played a secondary role in our lives. In this case, these differences would also take second place.



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