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Can you tell a person’s personality by their music?

Music is a big part of most people’s lives. We listen to music to relax, motivate us, or match our mood. The type of music we listen to can provide insight into our personality and preferences. But can your music taste provide deeper insights into your core personality traits? Let’s explore this idea further.

What the Research Says

Some research has found connections between musical preferences and personality traits. For example, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Individual Differences examined the music preferences and personality traits of over 3,500 people. The study found that fans of more complex styles of music like jazz and classical tended to be more open to new experiences. Pop music fans, on the other hand, tended to be more extroverted and conventional.

Another study published in 2017 looked at over 350,000 people’s Spotify playlists and musical preferences. Researchers found links between musical attributes like energy, danceability and positivity and personality traits measured by the Big Five model. For example, people who scored high in neuroticism tended to prefer music with negative emotions, while extraverts preferred upbeat dance music.

So research has uncovered some general associations between broad musical genres/attributes and personality traits. However, because music taste is so personal, it is hard to make specific predictions about an individual based only on their music preferences. There are many reasons besides personality that guide our musical likes and dislikes.

Criticisms and Limitations

While interesting, there are several limitations to many of these music and personality studies:

  • They rely on broad musical genres that overlook nuances in subgenres and individual artists.
  • Many studies use self-report personality measures that can be biased.
  • The studies show correlations but do not prove music causes certain personality traits.
  • Other factors like age, culture, and peer influences also shape music taste.

Some critics argue that supposed connections between music taste and personality are exaggerated. In a 2020 study, researchers found no link between the musical sophistication or intensity of people’s music preferences and their personality traits. The study authors argued that music is too complex of an art form to make firm predictions about individual personalities based on musical taste alone.

Linking Specific Artists to Personality

While musical genres are too broad to pinpoint personality, what about looking at preferences for specific artists? Can favorites like Beyoncé or Mozart reveal something about a listener?

Researchers have explored connections between liking specific musical artists and personality traits. For example:

  • Fans of The Beatles tend to be more open to new experiences and introspective.
  • Classical music fans are typically more emotionally stable, introverted and open.
  • Opera fans may be more open and intellectual.
  • Jazz fans tend to be more unconventional and emotionally unstable.
  • Heavy metal fans tend to be gentle, at ease with themselves, and open to new things.

However, keep in mind these are broad generalizations across large fan groups. Just because you love Mozart or Metallica doesn’t mean you’ll perfectly fit the “typical” fan personality profile.

Critiquing Personality Predictions

Some technology and music companies claim they can use your music taste to predict intimate details about your personality. For example, the music intelligence company Musikki says it can assess attributes like openness, self-esteem, and emotional stability based on your favorite artists.

However, be wary of any source claiming to make precise personality predictions based on music taste alone. Criticisms of these music personality models include:

  • They often rely on biased self-report data to validate their personality models. This can skew results.
  • They make overgeneralized claims not supported by rigorous experimental research.
  • Music taste depends on many factors besides personality, like age, culture, and peer groups.
  • Human personalities are incredibly nuanced and complex. Music taste alone provides limited insights.

So while music taste can indicate some general personality leanings, precise predictions about your personality based solely on your Spotify playlists should be taken with a grain of salt!

Why Music Taste Is a Limited Personality Predictor

While your favorite music undoubtedly says something about you, it provides limited insights about your core personality for several reasons:

  • Mood and interest dependent – We listen to different music depending on our mood, activities, and current interests. One day I may listen to upbeat pop music while cleaning, then mellow classical music before bed.
  • Changes over time – Our music taste evolves as we age and change. The rebellious teen blasting heavy metal may listen to totally different music 10 years later.
  • Influence of peers – We’re often introduced to new music through friends, family, or partners. Their music taste shapes our own.
  • Musical complexity – There are subtleties in genre, lyrical content, instrumentation, and more that simple algorithms cannot adequately capture.
  • Cultural factors – Our musical likes/dislikes are shaped by the culture we grow up in and relate to.

Due to these variables, while music taste provides some interesting clues, it has significant limitations in predicting personality on its own.

Using Music to Complement Traditional Assessments

While musical taste alone cannot definitively assess personality, could it complement traditional personality assessments?

Some researchers argue music preferences could provide additional personality insights combined with established assessments like questionnaires or interviews. For example, a psychologist could analyze a patient’s playlists in addition to a standard personality inventory test.

However, some experts argue that traditional personality assessments are sufficient and valid on their own. The complex factors that shape musical taste may not improve standard personality profiling approaches that already work well.

More research is needed to determine if combining musical taste and traditional personality assessments provides any added value. Music preference may be better viewed as a reflection of personality, rather than a predictor of it.


Research has uncovered some general links between musical taste and personality traits. However, music preference alone has significant limitations in predicting individual personality due to the complexity of musical preferences and human personalities. While your favorite artists may provide some clues to your personality, precise predictions are unlikely to be accurate.

Rather than trying to use music as a personality predictor, it may be best to simply appreciate musical taste as an interesting reflection of our personalities that can evolve and change over our lifetimes.