The Psychology of Musical Preferences. What do your musical preferences say about your personality?

Psychology Today: Here to Help

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. writes as follows:

Would you ever go out with someone who listens to Justin Bieber? Unfortunately, I do.

My girlfriend and I have many common interests, but when it comes to music her love of mainstream pop is just hard for me to digest. So, what do we know about the psychology of musical preferences?

There are two radically opposed views about this: One is that song preferences are completely random (this includes the idea that arbitrary subjective experiences can make you like or dislike the same song); the other, that our musical choices reflect important aspects of our personality. As you may have guessed, I agree with the latter - then again they call me Mr Personality.

How is it then that our musical preferences come to reveal our inner thoughts and feelings? The answer is really quite simple, namely that music fulfils three important psychological functions. Indeed, scientific research shows that people listen to music in order to: (a) improve their performance on certain tasks (music helps us combat boredom and achieve our optimal levels of attention while driving, studying or working); (b) stimulate their intellectual curiosity (by concentrating and analysing the music we hear); and, most importantly (c) manipulate or influence their own emotional states with the goal of achieving a desired mood state, e.g., happiness, excitement, and sadness.

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