Music and Personality Term Paper

Pages: 11 (3038 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music


Over 3500 participants covering multiple samples, geographic regions, and methods were used. Questionnaires, and opinion polls were used to formulate the final instrument; Short Test of Music Preferences (STOMP). Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was also performed using the LISREL.

Studies 1-3 used from 70-1700 University of Austin undergraduate students, while 4 was an online study using participants from all over the United States. Experiment 5 used 7 judges, representing a variety of musical tastes, while 6 used samples from study 2 and 3 to assess personality. The Big Five Inventory was used.

The data showed that music was an important aspect of people's lives and one they engaged in frequently in different situations. Participants believed that their music preferences mirrored significant aspects of their personalities and that of others.

The studies combined revealed four distinct dimensions of music-preferences; Reflective and Complex, Intense and Aggressive, Upbeat and Conventional, and Energetic and Rhythmic. These related to various personality dimensions distinct in their complexity, emotional valence, and energy level. This massive and comprehensive study identified definite relationships between music preferences and existing personality dimensions, self-views, and cognitive abilities (Rentfrow, 2003)

Music shifts frontal EEG in depressed adolescents.

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The fact that music was known to reduce stress, and improve mood formed a basis for this study which assessed the effects of music on chronically depressed adolescents, particularly the effects on their right: frontal EEG activation and their cortisol levels.

Chronically depressed adolescent females (N = 28) were recruited from a clinic based on their Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores and Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS) diagnoses. They were single, from 14 to 19 years old and were African-American (65%) or Hispanic (35%) with a low socioeconomic status.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Music & Personality Music Has Assignment

Instruments used were the behavior observations (BOS) and self-report data (DACL). Both showed no changes during or following the music sessions. No positive effects of the music on depressed behavior and self-reported mood state were noted. In contrast, EEG and stress hormone levels in this study were significantly affected by music.

This implies that perhaps it is not music that has beneficial effects; rather, it is the mood induction procedure that is calming.

Right frontal activation reportedly remains stable in chronically depressed adults even when behavior symptoms disappear. This study showed a significant alteration in the EEG despite no behavioral or self-report changes. This may be due to lesser control of the participants on EEG and cortisol levels than over self-report and behavior or that biochemical changes occur more immediately than behavioral and "felt" mood state changes. (Field 1998) prospective study of exposure to rap music videos and African-American female adolescents' health.

This study evaluated the effect of exposure to rap music videos on African-American females. They related the results to whether this could be a predictor of the occurrence of health risk behavior and sexually transmitted diseases and aggressive behavior. The sample consisted of 522 single African-American females between the ages of 14 and 18 who had been sexually active for the six months prior to the study. They were from non-urban, lower-socioeconomic neighborhoods.

Their media viewing habits were assessed through a questionnaire that examined frequency and basic type of rap watched and with whom. Also considered were the subject's age and employment factors as well as level of involvement in extracurricular and religious activities.

Univariate analyses assessed music video viewing characteristics at baseline while bivariate analyses correlated the adolescents' level of exposure to rap music videos at baseline, potential covariates and the incidence of health risk behaviors during a 12-month follow-up.

After controlling for covariates, greater exposure to rap music videos was found to be independently associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes. Greater rap exposure was associated with greater chance of having been arrested, hit a teacher, have multiple sexual partners, contracted a new sexually transmitted disease or used drugs and/or alcohol during the course of the 12-month follow-up. This needs farther study to rule out the effect of other obvious influences.

Exploring the relationship between personality characteristics and the appreciation of rock music.

This study investigated the relationship of 5 specific characteristics, i.e. extraversion, neuroticism, psychoticism and reactive and proactive rebelliousness with a preference for listening to soft/nonrebellious and hard/rebellious rock-music videotapes. Out of 138 undergraduate participants 78 were female and 60 male. Personality tests were performed prior to exposure to music.

It was found that respondents scoring high on psychoticism or high on reactive rebelliousness also enjoyed hard/rebellious rock-music videotapes more than did their peers. Contrastingly scores on extraversion, neuroticism, and proactive rebelliousness were not associated with enjoyment. Gender differences emerged as well with the women showing a tendency to enjoy soft/nonrebellious rock music as compared to the men who enjoyed hard/rebellious rock. (Robinson 1996)

Executive summary and Application

The above articles are evidence of the fact that musical psychology is a recently expanding field. The research in this area has been surprisingly less considering the pervasive quality of music in our lives. As the eminent personality psychologist Raymond Cattell stated, "So powerful is the effect of music... that one is surprised to find in the history of psychology and psychotherapy so little experimental, or even speculative, reference to the use of music..." (Rentfrow, 2003) large body of research, which includes the articles we have perused, all support the significant connection between social behavior and music. Definite connections have been proven between personality dimensions and music preferences. The limitations and shortcomings of music psychology research stems from the fact that since music is such an intrinsic part of social life that it is difficult to assess its effects while controlling that of other factors. (Rentfrow, 2003)

Also music satisfies many needs beyond that in social contexts. It serves to enhance and reflect the self-views of individuals. (Rentfrow, 2003) The preference of musical style chosen by a person helps to reinforce the ideal image they have of themselves. It also regulates their moods helping in sustaining the emotional state they desire. Researchers believe that musical preferences reveal important information about unconscious aspects of personality. (Rentfrow, 2003) Thus it is that hard metal fans may be youth who are angry or depressed and from dysfunctional homes. The aggressive and hostile quality of the music perhaps attracts these youngsters and serves to enhance their hostility. Research has shown that there are increased risk for suicide and self-harm amongst adolescents that are fans of hard metal.

In the same way violent lyrics have been proven to induce short-term hostile emotions that cause a negative change in perspective of social interaction. The aggressive acts that may follow serve to create a persistently hostile environment and have a detrimental impact on relationships. Through these indirect ways a chronic exposure to violent music can produce a hostile and aggressive personality. Similarly, preference for highly arousing music appears to be positively related to resting arousal, sensation seeking, and antisocial personality. (Rentfrow, 2003)

Music is also used as a social indicator of their values, attitudes, and self-views. Despite different populations, age groups, and cultures people's self-views and self-esteem were seen to influence their music preferences. (Rentfrow, 2003)

Research also links emotional states and physiological arousal. We know that anger tends to be associated with a high heart rate, happiness with a moderate heart rate and depression with a low heart rate. (Rentfrow, 2003) Accordingly angry music is depicted as highly energetic, happy music as moderately energetic and depressing music as least energetic. As the EEG study shows, sometimes biochemical and physiological changes occur despite no emotional changes due to the influence of music. To regulate our moods it has been theorized that individuals may choose a tempo of music that is consistent with the heart rate that characterizes their current or desired emotional state. (Rentfrow, 2003)

Nicholas Cook (1998) puts the influence of music on our social behavior succinctly: "In today's world, deciding what music to listen to is a significant part of deciding and announcing to people not just who you "want to be"... But who you are." (Cook 1998)What researchers need to realize however that to truly assess the impact of music on personality other facets of people's everyday lives must be integrated into the research repertoire.


Anderson, Craig A., Carnagey, Nicholas L. And Eubanks, Janie. "Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84.5(2003): 960-971

Cook, N. Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.1998.

Field, Tiffany; Martinez, Alex; Nawrocki, Thomas; Pickens, Jeffrey; Fox, Nathan A., Schanberg, Saul. "Music shifts frontal EEG in depressed adolescents. (electroencephalography)." Adolescence, Spring, 1998.

Hargreaves, D.J. And North, A.C. (ed.). The Social Psychology of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.1997.

Hargreaves, D.J. And North, A.C. "The functions of music in everyday life: redefining the social in music psychology." Psychology of Music, 27(1999): 71-83.

Papousek, H. "Musicality in infancy research: biological and cultural origins of early Musicality." In I. DeLiege and J.A. Sloboda (ed.), Musical Beginnings: Origins… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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