Music is always a topic of conversation, from the gals gabbing about the new Olivia Rodrigo album, GUTS, to those scream–conversations at frats about how those throwback songs make us feel oh–so–nostalgic. While ever present in all our lives, music genres do more than just act as a conversation starter. In fact, can music tell us more about ourselves than we think? "Individual Differences in Musical Taste," a study done by the American Journal of Psychology says yes: There is in fact a correlation between the genre of music we listen to and our personality. Turns out, music preferences can actually give us an insight into who we are, closely mirroring our inner selves.
The study particularly found connections between the Big Five personality inventories and music genres that the participants listened to. The five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism have been used to paint a multifaceted—yet incomprehensive—picture of who we are. For instance, it was found that those with higher levels of openness possessed a broad range of interests and were seen as creative. On the other hand, individuals with a high level of conscientiousness thrive on organization and tend to meticulously pay attention to detail. Moreover, neuroticism was linked with emotional instability and high stress. Researchers uncovered a compelling correlation between these five traits and music preferences. The music genres you gravitate towards can tell you more about yourself than you thought.
While turning on the radio in your car or entering a bustling store at a mall, it’s no surprise that pop music is always there, from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift. Those who listen to pop are known for being extraverted, honest, and hardworking with high self–esteem. On the more negative side, however, they’re also known for their lack of creativity. Could this be attributed to the fact of the constant critique that pop music is often too repetitive and simple? Because of this, pop enthusiasts may be perceived as having a basic music taste, due to the ongoing stereotype of pop songs being unoriginal. Nevertheless, screaming the lyrics to a catchy pop song during a karaoke night or on a late night drive with your friends can be a perfect bonding experience, and it says a lot about your willingness to enjoy the moment in social settings.
Rap music is a dynamic genre, thus those who listen to it are generally known for having high self–esteem and being more outgoing when compared to other genres. Those who listen to rap music actually share a lot in common with pop music listeners in terms of personality, and they both often thrive in social settings. Traits of openness and extraversion especially align with those who listen to rap music, while the music explores emotional depth and caters to a diverse range of experiences. Although rap enthusiasts may be perceived as aggressive, the study actually debunked this stereotype and found no such correlation. You might often catch them listening to Drake or Cardi B with their friends, reflecting the outgoing nature of their personality.
While liking country music may be considered a hot take in some circles, it’s actually quite a popular genre with 50% of Americans listening to it. Country music fans are known for their hardworking and outgoing personalities, as well as more conventional and conservative values. According to the study, those who listen to country music are more emotionally stable compared to people who listen to other genres of music. However, they also ranked lower in openness to experience, which can be correlated to resistance to new ideas. While country music continues to be a popular genre with themes that resonate with many people, the study reveals that its listeners generally are not as in touch with their feelings, which may be reflected in the current genre itself.
Rock enthusiasts often crank up their AirPods' volume to the highest decibel possible, as if to experience a live concert in the background. Interestingly, those listening to rock music reported having the highest level of openness to experience and were often known to have complex and unique hobbies. Contrary to stereotypes associating rock music listeners with anger or aggression, the study actually determined that rock fans were more gentle and creative. Moreover, they also tended to show low levels of self–esteem and were generally more introverted, often preferring to recharge through alone time.
As opposed to rock and pop enthusiasts, fans of indie music are known in this study to be introverted, not as hardworking, and possessing lower self–esteem. However, similar to their rap enthusiast counterparts, indie listeners are also quite open to experiences and can be found pondering upon abstract concepts and trying out new hobbies. They may arguably even be the most creative and intellectual compared to those who listen to other genres of music. Passivity and gentleness are two other notable characteristics found in those listening to indie music. Often the storytelling in songs like Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness,” or Mitski’s new album, The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, resonate with those listening to indie music.
This study can provide a fascinating insight into how our music taste correlates with our personality traits and tendencies. But rather taking this as truth, even if you’re able to deeply resonate with one genre, the study can be used to provide insight into the choices that the music industry may make in order to attract certain audiences. The lyrics we resonate with and the melodies we belt out at the top of our lungs are not just mere sounds, but rather paint a broad picture of your fellow listeners. Still, the genre you gravitate to explains on a basic level the type of person you are.