By Alexandra Mae Jones, CTVNews.ca Editor
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TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — Is your love for a specific selection of beats tied to your personality, and if so, would that connection be the same no matter where in the world you live?
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which examined the musical preferences of more than 350,000 people in 50 countries and six continents, musical preference was associated with personality in the same way regardless of location. .
“Ed Sheeran’s song, Shivers, is [just] as likely to appeal to extroverts living in the UK as those living in Argentina or India,” said a press release for the study. “Those with neurotic traits in the United States are as likely to be drawn to Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit as people with a similar personality living in Denmark or South Africa.”
The researchers say their findings show that music can be a powerful unifying factor and could in fact help to resolve divisions in society.
The study found that across the world, extroverts were attracted to contemporary music, while pleasant people enjoyed soft, unassuming music, and people who scored high on openness for their personality enjoyed the soft, contemporary, intense and sophisticated music.
Contemporary music included upbeat music often with electronic aspects, while music deemed “sophisticated” in the study categories had more complex arrangements and improvisation in instrumentation, such as jazz.
The correlation between personality and the type of music people enjoy has remained constant even in many countries.
“We have been surprised to see how these patterns between music and personality have replicated across the world,” said David Greenberg, Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cambridge and Postdoctoral Fellow at Bar-Ilan University. , in the press release.
“People can be divided by geography, language and culture, but if an introvert in one part of the world likes the same music as introverts elsewhere, that suggests that music could be a very powerful bridge. Music helps people people to understand each other and find common ground.
To compile the data, the researchers conducted two studies. In the first, they asked more than 284,000 participants to complete a survey about their level of appreciation for 23 different genres of Western music. In the second study, more than 71,000 participants viewed short clips from 16 genres of Western music online and then were asked to record their preferences for the tracks.
The musical genres have been classified into five categories: contemporary, sophisticated, soft, unpretentious and intense. Mellow included romantic songs, soft rock, R&B, and adult contemporary. Unpretentious included relaxing, simple and unaggressive tunes, and Intense included distorted and aggressive sounds such as classic rock, punk and heavy metal.
In order to match personality to preferences, in both studies participants were asked to report their personality as rated in the “Big Five” categories: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
These terms represent categories of personalities and are part of a personality theory first developed in 1949.
Although there is no complete consensus on the exact set of characteristics associated with each personality type, in general, in the Big Five theory, “openness” is associated with imagination and creativity. spontaneity, “conscientiousness” is associated with reflection and purpose. , extraversion relates to those who are stimulated by social interaction, agreeableness is associated with kindness and a desire to care for others, and neuroticism is associated with sadness and anxiety.
The researchers focused on asking participants about Western music because it had the greatest global reach in terms of listeners, according to the study.
The study included color-coded charts with the strength of the correlation between personality and their associated musical preferences.
A map showed that while extroversion and contemporary music were strongly correlated in all countries in the study, they were more strongly correlated in Brazil, while the correlation was weaker in China.
Researchers had predicted that extraversion would be correlated with contemporary and upbeat music. They also correctly predicted that those who scored high in the category of “conscience,” which is associated with being structured and liking order in the Big Five theory, would be much less likely to enjoy intense music due to its often rebellious lyrics.
One finding that stood out from the rest was the musical tastes of people who identified strongly with neuroticism.
“We thought neuroticism would probably have gone one of two ways, either preferring sad music to express their loneliness or preferring upbeat music to change their mood,” Greenberg said. “In fact, on average, they seem to prefer more intense musical styles, perhaps reflecting inner angst and frustration.”
“It was surprising, but people use music in different ways – some might use it for catharsis, others for changing their mood. So there may be subgroups that score high for neuroticism that listen to soft music for a reason and another subgroup who are more frustrated and may prefer intense music to let off steam. We’ll explore this further.”
He added that musical preferences do not determine your defined personality and that preferences can change over time. But the apparent universality of which music people enjoy could open up new avenues of communication, the researchers believe.
“Musical preferences evolve and change, they are not immutable. And we’re not suggesting that someone is just extroverted or just open,” Greenberg said.
“We all have combinations of personality traits and combinations of musical preferences of varying strengths. Our results are based on averages and we have to start somewhere to start seeing and understanding the connections. »
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