Cognitive Daily

Musical tastes and personality

Is it better to meet your special someone by picking them up at a rock concert, or by serving on the same church committee? Actually, the rock concert might be the better bet, assuming you’re both enjoying the music. Chris at Mixing Memory has a fascinating discussion of why musical tastes may be a more important gauge of personality than any other measure (we’ve discussed some of the same research here).

Confident that people really do use musical preferences as indicators of personal qualities, Rentfrow and Gosling next sought to map out the dimensions of those preferences. They started by identifying different musical genres, using a free-association task with five judges, and then getting more information from music stores. This process yielded 80 different musical genres, which were then divided into fourteen, with 66 subgenres. Using these genres and subgenres, Rentfrow and Gosling developed a questionnaire they called the “Short Test of Musical Preferences,” or STOMP, which they gave to participants along with several personality measures.

How did these preferences correspond to personality?

In short, people who listen to jazz are smart, liberal, adventurous, and poor; people who listen to heavy metal are smart, liberal, adventurous, athletic, and prone to social dominance; people who listen to Madonna or the “Dancing With Wolves” soundtrack are agreeable, conscientious, conservative, rich, happy, dumb, emotionally unstable, and hot; and people who listen to hip hop are extraverted, agreeable, liberal, athletic, and hot. Well, those are the tendencies at least (I’ve known some smart Madonna fans, though I have to say that they were pretty emotionally unstable).

In a separate post, Chris gives his own musical top-ten list, and encourages others to offer their own — he’s managed to persuade quite a few web luminaries, including PZ Myers and Janet Stemwedel to post theirs.

Now I suppose you want to know my musical tastes. Well, I’m not really a top-ten sort of guy, but if you insist, here’s a semi-random list:

Sarah Harmer: Lodestar
Celia Cruz: Ritmo, Tambo, Y Flores
Talking Heads: Road to Nowhere
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto
Buena Vista Social Club: Chan Chan
Orchestra Baobab: Utras Horas
Beethoven: Symphony Number 9
Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit
Santana: Put Your Lights On
Miles Davis: Summertime


  1. #1 Wendy
    March 25, 2007

    Just wanted to say that along with musical taste, I think that similar senses of humor are right up there near music.. Though of course it took me til my 30s to realize this.. doesn’t make me dumb though.. I’m not much of a madonna fan. 😉 I’m lean more to the heavy metal and jazz or blues. =)

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