UG Articles Archive

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Study: musical taste linked closely to personality

According to a recent study conducted by Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, the music you listen to could say a lot about your personality.  The study surveyed over 36,000 people from around the world (the largest such study ever done), asking questions to determine their taste in music as well as their dominant personality traits.  What Professor North found was interesting in that it suggests that fans of certain types of music tend to have similar personalities, and linkages can be made between musical genres and their listeners.

"One of the most surprising things is the similarities between fans of classical music and heavy metal," said Professor North.  "They're both creative and at ease but not outgoing."  This isn't terribly surprising to me, but more on that in a bit.

The study also was able to generalize that shyness is common among fans of classical music, while fans of heavy metal tend to be gentle and at ease with themselves.  "The general public has held a stereotype of heavy metal fans being suicidally depressed and of being a danger to themselves and society in general. But they are quite delicate things" North concludes.  Jazz fans tend to be creative types, while country music listeners define themselves as "hardworking," first and foremost.

In an interview with the BBC, Professor North argues that shared musical tastes create similarities and common ground among people that transcend national and regional boundaries.  He states: "heavy metal fans in Scandinavia, for instance, have far more in common with heavy metal fans in Brazil, than they have with classical music fans or any other types of musical fans in Scandinavia itself."

As I said, I'm not terribly surprised that fans of classical music and metal have a lot in common.  A lot of modern metal, especially that originating in Europe, is heavily influenced by classical music.  Look no further than, say, early Children of Bodom or anything by Yngwie Malmsteen to find metal music that attempts to imitate and innovate upon the themes and styles of classical music.  Metal bands routinely use orchestral backing tracks and introductions, further solidifying the connections between the genres.  Any metal fan worth his or her salt will tell you that Vivaldi is pretty awesome (honestly, you could play "Four Seasons - Winter"  with distortion and palm mutes and it would sound like thrash), and that Bach is great listening.  EDIT: I HAVE PROOF! 

I am surprised, however, with my apparent perfect fit into the personality of a metal fan.  I would describe myself as being gentle, at ease with myself, and not outgoing, as well as somewhat creative.  All of these traits are typical of metal fans, according to the study.  But does the music make the person the way they are, or do people naturally gravitate to the kinds of music their personality type tends to go for?

Here's the full list, courtesy of the BBC and Heriot-Watt University.  Wow, sucks to be an Indie fan I guess:  "Low self-esteem, not hardworking, not gentle."  Actually that's pretty accurate.  Also, note that fans of Chart Pop are "not creative."  Brilliant!


BB King
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle and at ease

Thelonius Monk
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease

Nigel Kennedy
High self-esteem, creative, introvert and at ease

Public Enemy
High self-esteem, outgoing

High self-esteem, creative, gentle

Dolly Parton
Hardworking, outgoing

Linton Kwesi Johnson
High self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, outgoing, gentle and at ease

Creative, outgoing, not gentle

Pete Doherty
Low self-esteem, creative, not hard working, not gentle

Creative, outgoing

Low self-esteem, creative, not hard-working, not outgoing, gentle, at ease

Kylie Minogue
High self-esteem, not creative, hardworking, outgoing, gentle, not at ease

James Brown
High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, gentle, at ease


  1. If you're passionate about BOTH classical music AND jazz, as many people are, how do you manage to be BOTH introvert AND outgoing at the same time ? Or do you keep switching from one to the other ? Huh ?

  2. That's a good question, maybe you're the type that goes out to a bar to be sociable and have fun and then sits alone and doesn't talk to anyone? I think that would qualify as both outgoing and introverted behavior...