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You are what you listen to: Does musical taste predict personality? August 6, 2008

Posted by ashiah in In the news, Music.
Tags: ,

My actual playlist. As you can
see, I’m too cool for iTunes.

I hate it when people ask me what kind of music I listen to. No matter what genre comes out of your mouth, people will use that word as a major identifier of your personality. A clean-cut guy in a suit becomes someone else when he reveals he listens to heavy metal, and a urban street kid is almost unrecognizable if he says he listens to country. Add to the mix that most people listen to more than one genre of music and you have a lose-lose situation, which is why most people just smile and say, “Oh, I listen to a little bit of everything.” Crisis averted.

But society can’t help categorizing itself. We have a sociological urge to try to explain the actions of others through the quickest, easiest mean. Sitting down and getting to know someone takes too much time and effort — we like shortcuts. This article explains how researchers have determined that teenagers who listen to a distinct genre have distinctive personality characteristics.

This guy listens to Kate Bush.

For example, people who listen to pop are “conformists,” while people who listen to jazz are “loners.” Country wasn’t on the list, but if it was I’m sure it’ll say “must love Bush” right next to it. How fair is it to judge those based on their iTunes playlist?

Music itself is too complicated to be placed in categories. Sure they exist, but usually as just overly broad indicators to describe the general direction the music is located. Rock and hip-hop are too broad, and if music itself is too complicated to decipher, what makes people think deciphering the minds of humans is any easier? Unless you’re dealing with a simple-minded person who has very basic, broad musical tastes, judging by music will never work. We’ll just have to accept the fact that humans are multi-dimensional, unique beings that like to listen to “a little bit of everything.”



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