What Your Playlist Says About Your Personality


“What Do Music Preferences Reveal About Personality? A Cross-Cultural Replication Using Self-Ratings and Ratings of Music Samples” was written by Alexandra Langmeyer, Angelika Guglhör-Rudan, and Christian Tarnai and was published in the Journal of Individual Differences in 2012. The purpose of this study was to determine if our musical choices reflect important aspects of our personality; the researchers were also interested in gender differences. The results were compared between German and Dutch participants.


To determine if there was a correlation between personality type and musical preference, the researchers conducted an experiment. They used a sample of Germans between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-six. The participants were students at the Universität der Bundeswehr München in Germany, who were selected to complete an online questionnaire. The Short Test of Music Preferences (STOMP) was used to determine musical inclination. The test has four dimensions: reflective and complex (jazz and blues), intense and rebellious (rock and heavy metal), upbeat and conventional (country and pop), and energetic and rhythmic (rap and hip-hop). The participants used a Likert scale to rate how much they like each genre. They then listened to music clips and rated them using the same scale. To assess personality, they used a German version of the Big Five Inventory (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), which had twenty questions. The Big Five Inventory uses five broad domains or dimensions of personality that are used to describe human personality. Music preferences were approximated by both the specific STOMP genres and the corresponding music clips.


In a study of made up of Dutch participants (Zweigenhaft 2008), researchers found that personality and music preference are correlated. A correlation is a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things. The correlation in the Dutch sample was found using STOMP as well. For this study, researchers wanted to see if this would be true in the German population. In their research, they found significant gender differences. For example, the relationship for women was defined by positive correlations, while the opposite was true for men. The most substantial correlations were found between extraversion and neuroticism, and agreeableness and openness. The other dimensions were faintly correlated, or not correlated at all. Interestingly, agreeableness was not associated with any musical preference. Extraversion was correlated with energetic and rhythmic and neuroticism was weakly correlated with upbeat and conventional. Openness and reflective and complex were strongly correlated, although openness and reflective also correlated with intense and rebellious. Openness was negatively correlated with upbeat and conventional. Conscientiousness was adversely associated with intense and rebellious, but positively to upbeat and conventional. There was also a correlation between the ratings given to the music clips and personality. So, the research question was answered. There is indeed a relationship between an individual’s personality and the music that they choose to listen to.


This study was important because it demonstrated that music choices can predict personality types across cultures (or at least European cultures). However, I do see weaknesses and flaws. One, the majority of people listen to more than one musical genre. Two, age, gender and geographic location may also be more important than personality in determining musical preference. Social identity may drive people’s musical choice. Most studies examining the relationship between musical preference and personality have based their research off of musical genres. This cannot be totally accurate, because categories such as genres have no psychological equivalent. Musical genres should only be used to categorize musical styles, not individuals.


Langmeyer, A., Guglhör-Rudan, A., & Tarnai, C. (2012). What do music preferences reveal about personality? A cross-cultural replication using self-ratings and ratings of music samples. Journal Of Individual Differences, 33(2), 119-130. doi:10.1027/1614-0001/a000082

Zweigenhaft, R. L. (2008). A do re mi encore. A closer look at the personality correlates of music preferences. Journal of Individual Differences, 29, 45–55.


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