Does Your Musical Taste Really Dictate Who You Are?
January 18, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
"Oh, I like all sorts of music, I listen to everything." Yeah, that's bull and you know it.
"Oh, I like all sorts of music, I listen to everything."
I don't trust people who say this because it's simply not true. If you listen to Taylor Swift every single morning, I seriously doubt you listen to Norwegian heavy metal when you go to bed. Your musical taste is deeply in tuned to your being and if you say you listen to everything then your personality is completely gray, because we all know the moment you mix all the colors you get a muddy hue. This doesn't mean you stick to one genre and become a purist, but rather you are deeply aligned to the music that resonates with your soul.
Researchers have tried to uncover whether a single song can dictate your personality, for instance at New York University, a team ascertained that people with psychopathic traits gravitate to certain songs. Now, if your favorite playlist includes, “What Do You Mean” by the Biebs, Backstreet’s Boys' “No Diggity,” or Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” it’s likely there's a psychopath lurking inside your head. Now, I feel this is silly because these songs are all hits that were blasted across the radio and the internet non-stop for weeks or months. So if you dance to their beat and listen to them constantly, does that mean you have psychopathic traits? I don't think so. I wonder if these studies are reductionist or if we can scientifically create links between music and personality...
First we need to ask ourselves how many studies are out there? For Doctor Todd B. Kashdan from the University of Buffalo there are very few studies that explore the connection between music and personality. This is surprising considering the important role music plays in our everyday lives. The few that have been published show interesting results but they can hardly be taken as hard truths since they're not supported by other empirical studies. The songs mentioned in the psychopathy study have very similar bass structures and rhythms to "My Sharona" or even Sia's "Titanium," so does that mean these songs are also pleasurable for psychopaths? While there are gaps to this study, one thing it does brilliantly is that it shatters stereotypes set in movies and books that showcase psychopaths having only a particular taste for classical music.
Going back to Doctor Kashdan, he points out something important that was established in the field a long time ago: the connection between music and our emotions. We all have designated playlists for when we feel blue or need to cheer up. Music has an important link to how we feel and we even use music to manipulate our emotions. For example, when I was away from home in university, I would listen to folk music and it would trigger my nostalgia. Or if I needed to feel motivated to study I would have the perfect playlist on hand. Music guides our emotions in many ways, but it doesn't dictate our core being. The music you listen to is just another piece of the puzzle we like to call "Personality."
Take for instance heavy metal and hard rock. For a long time, and I think it still happens today, these genres were associated with violence and hate. The reality is far from this, according to a study made by a set of psychologists from Humboldt University, people who listen to heavy metal are more emotionally balanced and happier than people who listen to other genres. The images we attach to genres are born from prejudice and not scientific research, so let's stop saying that people who listen to pop music are shallow and those that listen to indie are pretentious because of the "vibe" they give.
If you like pop then you tend to be extroverted, honest, hardworking, and have a high self-esteem. If you're into jazz, blues, and soul then you're very creative, intelligent, and emotionally stable. These horoscope style assertions were made at the Heriot-Watt University and while it is nice to see those lovely traits and pat yourself on the back for your musical taste, we all know this sounds too good to be true. I'm not a psychologist but i've met a couple of pop fans who are the laziest people ever and far away from having a high self esteem.
So, here's my issue with these studies, that no matter how hard they try to create this connection between personality and music, they stifle the beautiful colors of music and close your potential to a few personality traits. Music may not shape your personality, but it guides your feelings and emotions, it colors your worldview and accompanies you in your life. I do believe there is a connection between these two elements but it will never be fully uncovered because both music and your being are fluid and ever changing.
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