Music Predicts Personality

A look into why we like the music we do and what it says about us

It’s 6 p.m.—Senior Samantha Toomey arrives home, ready to start her home­work. Opening one of her desk drawers, Toomey reveals a collection of over a dozen of her favorite CDs. U2’s simple album cover, Beyonce’s black and white “Sasha Fierce” cover, the black bird of The Crows’ album, Blake Shelton’s smolder and Hil­ary Duff’s “Meta­morphosis” sit on the top of the stack. She reaches down and pulls out a Rolling Stones al­bum. Placing her headphones into her ears, she plays “Beast of Burden.”

According to Psychology Today, most people listen to music of many different genres, not just one. Senior Lakshmi Uppala­pati, who listens to music recreation­ally, supports this.

“It just de­pends on what I’m in the mood for,” Uppalapati said, elaborating on how her music interest can vary in anything from classical music to pop punk. Toomey agreed and said her music choices “have a ten­dency to change from month to month.”

Studies done by Peter J. Rentfrow and Samuel D. Gos­ling, psychologists at the Uni­versity of Texas at Austin, and studies from Roanoke College in VA suggest that an individu­al’s taste in music is directly re­lated to his or her personality.

“My interests are as var­ied as my taste in music,” Up­palapati said.

Many in­dividuals have a mixture of traits and do not fit into a single category, which is why individu­als may have the tendency to like a variety of genres.

That being said, most in­dividuals have a favorite song or a genre they tend to listen to more than other genres. Toomey said that she en­joys music from the Roll­ing Stones and specified that “Beast of Bur­den” is her favorite song. The Rolling Stones, a classic rock band, is an example of “Up­beat and Conventional” mu­sic, according to the Rentfrow and Gosling study. Character­istics that define individu­als who enjoy “Upbeat and Conventional” music include extrovert, athletic and high self-esteem—three adjectives that Toomey used to describe herself.

Similarly, Uppalapati cur­rently listens to Cage the El­ephant and The Story, which are both alternative bands. Alternative music falls un­der the category of “Intense and Rebellious,” which lends the traits of verbal ability and self-perceived intelligence.

Although music tastes parallel personality traits, there has been controversy over whether music can pre­dict human skills, such as intelligence. Virgil Griffith, an Internet and software re­searcher, conducted a study, which found that listeners of Beethoven scored higher scores on standardized tests than listeners of Lil’ Wayne. However, Uppalapati’s per­sonal opinion is that intelli­gence cannot be measured by music genres.

When talking with some­one about college plans or future occupation goals and then discussing music, Up­palapati said, “when I men­tion anything alternative like punk or metal, sometimes I get a look as if they don’t ex­pect someone to want to be a physician and still like Black Sabbath.” She explained that others view her music tastes as something below her level of intelligence. She contin­ued, “I’ve straight up been told, ‘but, you have actual goals and a career path,’ in re­sponse to me listing off a few genres.”

Toomey sees “intelli­gence” as something differ­ent. “Music allows me to ex­pand my knowledge of what was going on when the song was popular or first came out. The story behind the song has always fascinated me and helped me connect with the past. In that way it affects my intelligence,” she said.

Although the link be­tween intelligence and mu­sic taste is not yet solidified, studies do show that music builds relationships with oth­ers because it is a common conversation topic. Rentfrow and Gosling found that “from the first encounters [between people], music was discussed more often than all other ac­tivities combined.”

Toomey credits music with many of her long-term friendships, “especially with people who hold music at the same level of respect and love that I do.” While a genre of music can supposedly predict if an individual is more out­going or introverted, dumber or smarter, a single song can connect people and build a lasting relationship.



Reflective and Complex:

Blues, jazz, classical and folkOpenness to experience, self-perceived intelligence, verbal ability, emotional stability and political liberalism

Intense and Rebellious:

Rock, alternative and heavy metal

Openness to experience, extroversion, athleticism, self-perceived intelligence, social dominance orientation and verbal ability

Upbeat and Conventional:

Country, sound tracks, religious and pop

Extraversion, agreeableness,cons cientiousness, self-esteem, political conservatism, self-perceived attractiveness, wealth and athleticism

Energetic and Rhythmic:

Rap, hip hop, R&B and dance

Extraversion, agreeableness, political liberalism, self-perceived physical attractiveness and athleticism



– Charlsea Lamb