Musical Preferences and Personality

For many of us, our taste in music is an integral part of our identity – so much so that, to a certain extent, what we listen to is who we are. The songs of our youth, heard a thousand times, fill our headspace with stray lyrics and infectious grooves, creating a filter for the way we see, hear, and understand the world from then on out. And while some have a less conscious, more organic approach, others actively draw boundaries between the music they accept and the music they deny – and by extension, the people associated with those musical cultures, as well.

The link between musical preferences and personality is so strong that many of us feel a quick skim of one’s iTunes folder, Spotify playlists, or record collection would reveal a wealth of information about the owner, even if these supposed revelations are distorted by the lens of our own inherent prejudices. A punk fan may instantly dismiss someone with an extensive selection of country, assuming that possession of such music all but guarantees a certain provincialism on the part of the possessor. Of course, as with all stereotypes, hasty judgments are usually wrongheaded – genre, like one’s personality type, is more a guide than a straightjacket, and wisdom is more readily found in the hidden nuances than in the broad strokes.

Nevertheless, though there are genre-bending outliers to be found in every category of music, the general tendencies of each may cause certain personalities to gravitate more readily towards particular genres, while being repelled by others. Furthermore, as much as we might identify ourselves – and classify one another – by our choice of genre, our preferred medium (MP3 player, laptop, car stereo) might be just as telling.

This article is based on our survey of over 4000 respondents whom we asked about their music preferences. The survey has revealed the outlooks different personalities have on music – what we listen to, when we listen to it, and how we do the listening. The answers to each question, as you will see, illustrate the importance of decisions that may have long since become all but automatic.

The music genres that Analyst personality types tend to appreciate more than the other Roles – rock (80%), classical (76%), jazz (54%, tied with Diplomats), punk (46%), and metal (44%) – also tend to be the ones that are most often respected for the sheer technical expertise at work as much as for the more emotional qualities of these songs. Not to say that other genres are lacking in musicianship, but Analysts may nonetheless find these five forms particularly likely to prize efficient, precise virtuosity for its own sake. After all, the only thing an Analyst loves more than a good challenge is seeing that challenge bested through skill alone, whether the challenge is a dazzlingly intricate guitar solo or an entire movement of a tricky concerto.

In addition, Analysts were found to be the heaviest users of headphones (59%) of all the Roles, a characteristic that may be due to Analysts’ need to be “in their heads” as much as possible, shutting out the distractions of the outside world so as to better focus on the problems circulating within. Analyst personalities also have a tendency to feel like loners, and they may prefer listening privately rather than justifying their tastes to an unwelcome audience.

As the Role with the most typical affinity for technology, it may be unsurprising that Analysts were the Role most likely to listen using a PC, laptop, or tablet (42%), devices which are rarely far from most Analysts’ reach. The utilitarian appeal of a computer – useful for so many tasks outside of audio – may be more important to an Analyst than any fidelity lost to inferior speakers.

Quantity alone may not necessarily be the most accurate measure of appreciation, but nevertheless, the finding that Diplomats are the Role most likely to listen to more than two hours of music every day (48%) may still be significant. At the very least, this data may illustrate how readily Diplomats can become lost for extended periods in the alternate realities that music can conjure into being.

The depths of the devotion that Diplomat personality types have to their music may also be exemplified by the fact that they are the most likely Role to embrace MP3 players (14%). Where some Roles may see music as an afterthought, an added feature for their workstation or means of conveyance that is nice, but hardly necessary, Diplomats may feel that having their own tunes close at hand is absolutely vital. For a Diplomat, an MP3 player may take on almost talismanic properties, adored as much for its form – and its symbolism – as its function.