You are your record collection, according to new research that reveals how personality is reflected through music.
If you really want to get to know someone, try rummaging through their CD collection. An study has proved that when it comes to judging a person’s character, their favourite music is one of the most valuable clues.
Almost anything about a man or a woman – from their looks, intelligence and fitness, to politics, wealth and even conversational ability – can be gleaned from the tunes they enjoy most.
People who favour Madonna’s Material Girl, for example, are likely to be cheerful, outgoing and reliable. They will probably consider themselves physically attractive as well. If on the other hand, someone prefers the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, they are likely to possess more of an inquiring mind, enjoy taking risks, and consider themselves to be pretty intelligent.
In the study, psychologists from the University of Texas questioned 3500 people about their individual musical preferences and then matched them with their personality traits.
The American researchers, who reported their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, say the link between music choice and personality has remained, until now, an unexplored area of psychology.
“At this very moment, in homes, offices, cars, restaurants and clubs around the world, people are listening to music, but despite its prevalence in everyday life, the sound of music has remained mute within social and personality psychology,” the report says.
The researchers, who also found that people listened to music more often than almost any other activity, including reading, watching TV and viewing films, put the volunteers through personality tests designed to tease out as much about them as possible.
They then asked the men and women about the music they liked the most. A total of 140 pieces of music were used, divided into 14 different genres, with 10 songs in each.
John McKie, former editor of music magazines Q and Smash Hits, said: “I know guys that have split up with girls just because they found a dodgy record in their collection.
“I don’t think anyone who’s really passionate about music just ‘listens’ to it. This research is positive confirmation of the fact that songs are emblematic of people’s characters.
“I’ve always believed that people’s musical taste says a lot about them. If you like Avril Lavigne, for example, you probably need to have your ears syringed.”
Just why musical likes and dislikes are so closely linked to personality is not clear. One theory is that it is because individuals select music to reinforce their views of themselves.
“Individuals may, for example, listen to esoteric music to reinforce a self-view of being sophisticated. Individuals might also select styles of music that allow them to send a message about how they like to be seen. Individuals who listen to heavy metal music at a loud volume with their car window down, for example, may be trying to convey a tough image.” the report says. “If musical preferences are partially determined by personality, self-views and cognitive abilities, then knowing what kind of music a person likes could serve as a clue to his personality and views of himself.”
Researchers also found that while people had favourites, they also, flirted with other music: “One possibility is that people choose a tempo of music that is consistent with the heart rate that characterises their current or desired mood,” says the report.
Blowin’ in the Wind: Inventive, solid, open to new experiences, consider themselves to be intelligent, good conversationalists, but not too clever at maths or analytical stuff. Politically liberal, but not very sporty. Unlikely to be depressed.
Ode to Joy: Active imagination, values aesthetic experiences, inventive, tolerant of others, consider themselves to be intelligent, and reject conservative ideals. Least likely to say something without thinking first.
Brown Sugar: Agreeable, open to new experiences, athletic, intelligent, with good verbal skills, and tend to be dominant in interpersonal relationships.
It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine): Not neurotic, curious about different things. Enjoy taking risks, physically active and intelligent. May be prone to depression.
I’m Real: Conventional, upbeat, cheerful, socially outgoing, reliable, enjoy helping others, and see themselves as physically attractive.
Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe: A tendency to be talkative and full of energy. They are also forgiving, and have a strong dislike of conservatism.
Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes
If You Don’t Know Me By Now: Extrovert, agreeable, also flirtatious with a tendency to express their feelings straight away. Liberal and athletic, and on the whole think of themselves as pretty attractive.