Are What You
Personality — above all —
predicts our musical preferences.
BY KATHERINE CONRAD
Illustration by Jorge Colombo
Composers have long known music’s
power to soothe, energize, even provoke.
Researchers, too, have observed
a connection between music and mood.
But which came first? Did a particular
song make the listener feel better? Or does
the listener feel better because he or she
has a particular personality that prefers
a particular kind of music?
Several years of research backed by t wo
extensive studies involving thousands of
participants convinced an international
team of music psychologists that
personality plays a much bigger part in
musical preferences than anyone had ever
imagined. Bigger even than age, gender,
culture, or education.
“It turns out that personality is a better
predictor of what kind of music you want
to listen to,” says Michal Kosinski, assistant
professor of organizational behavior at
Stanford GSB and a member of the team.
“Demographics and socioeconomics play
a part, but when you look under the hood,
The results open the way to
understanding the connection between
people, their personalities, and the music
they prefer. And it has implications for both
the music industry, including streaming
platforms such as Pandora and Spotify, and
the fields of musical therapy and health
care. Data already shows that music before,
during, and after surgery aids patient
“By studying the links bet ween musical
taste and personality, we can improve our
understanding of how to use music to make
people happier and healthier,” Kosinski says.
Michal Kosinski is an assistant
professor of organizational behavior
at Stanford GSB.