Broadening music taste furthers personality development

It is no secret that music has an impact on our emotions. Have you ever found yourself smiling more than usual after listening to your feel-good playlist? Or perhaps listening to breakup ballads has made you feel less optimistic about your own relationships. Either way, music often serves as a tone-setter.

“When I’m at the gym, I know I need to get ready to work out,” senior Giovanni Algeria said. “I listen to music that makes me feel more energized, and it definitely helps hype me up.”

A study conducted by the University of Nevada found that upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive about life, and a slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles. Listening to both types of music can provide listeners with both effects. This study is one of many seeking to prove the impacts of music on human mood. Some other well-known studies consider the alleviation of anxiety through music and the benefits of listening to classical music during childhood.

“A lot of research revolves around having your kids listen to Mozart,” social worker Roger Mills said. “It has found that it soothes them and calms them down. That’s just proof that different music is able to impact us in different ways.”

Most of the previously mentioned studies have come to a similar conclusion: music is capable of influencing mood at any given moment. But the long-term effects of music are speculated on much less often.

One study conducted by the University of Cambridge included over 4,000 participants. In the study, the participants took a Facebook personality test followed by listening to snippets of 50 songs from 26 genres to determine their taste in music.

There were significant correlations: R&B and slow jazz listeners exhibited more empathy, and rock and hip-hop listeners had more structured thought. The study did not consider the causation between the correlation, but it is quite possible that listening to different music influences these personality traits.

“When you listen to a singer or rapper a lot, you feel like you understand what they’ve been through,” sophomore Kristy Rubino said. “I think it can make you subconsciously act more like them, or at least like you’ve had their experiences.”

If the connection between music, mood and personality is so strong, it would make sense to intentionally listen to certain music in an attempt to improve mood or personality traits. But according to both Mills and Rubino, this is a difficult feat; music taste tends to come naturally, and forcing oneself to listen to different music does not usually have the effects one would expect.

“I’ve tried to listen to happy music when I’m sad to make myself happier, and it didn’t really work,” Rubino said. “It just felt like: why am I listening to this?”

Putting on music that an individual does not enjoy may not further mood or personality development, but there may be a way to find more music that they enjoy: exposure to a broader range of sounds. Listening to multiple genres of music increases the chance of finding music that they like, which increases the potential of changing their overall music taste.

This could also allow them to reap the benefits of multiple genres of music. By exposing oneself to multiple types of music, an individual is able to experience more positive effects.

“I used to only listen to rap music,” Algeria said. “I broadened my music taste, and now I listen to rock and other genres, too. When I started listening to more, I had a lot of new experiences, and I was able to connect with more people who shared some of my music taste.”

According to Mills, the feelings brought about by music are unlike the feelings brought about by any other form of media. The feelings associated with music often incorporate nostalgic elements and unique emotions, many of which can only be brought about by listening to different genres and tempos.

Having a specific and curated taste in music can prevent us from experiencing all of these elements. These experiences grow along with the expansion of our music tastes. By only listening to one type of music, we are actively minimizing the range of our social and emotional experiences. 

“Music can bring us back to our positive and negative life experiences and create those emotions,” Mills said. “I think that’s why we listen to it so much.”