Although the link between music and personality is a well-known one, recent research has only now begun to delve into the intricacies of their relationship to show just how impactful music preference is. 

Music is not just a reflection of sounds we like; it’s also insight into the essence of who we are, a virtual user’s manual for our personality types. And although the link between music and personality is a well-known one, recent research has only now begun to delve into the intricacies of their relationship to show just how impactful music preference is. Finally: science is attempting to explain why all people who listen to Kid Rock have jetskis and garbage babies.

One of the most important studies to probe this issue was conducted by Dr. Adrian North, now working at Curtin University in Australia. In 2010, he surveyed 36,518 people in more than 60 countries about their preference for 104 musical styles, as well as their personality. This study was the first of its kind in terms of scale and detail; never before had the connection been so meticulously examined.

When all was said and done, he concluded that a huge amount of someone’s personality and lifestyle can be described by their musical taste, something that would eventually reveal how music was connected to identity.

Here’s a summary of what he found:

Rap/Hip-Hop: high self-esteem, outgoing, not very eco-friendly

Heavy Metal: gentle, low self-esteem, reserved, and comfortable with themselves

Indie Rock: low self-esteem, creative, lazy, headstrong

Electronic/Dance: sociable, headstrong, outgoing, creative

Classical: high self-esteem, introverted, high earners, eco-friendly

Pop: high self esteem, hard working, outgoing, low creativity, nervous

So does this mean that if you’re into EDM, you’re at a party, making collages with your penis and arguing with a bystander all at once? Knowing you, probably.

These findings have important implications for musical stereotyping. Is it really fair to say that all people that like rap also hate recycling, or that all people who like indie rock have low self-esteem and that’s why they hide behind black-framed glasses and swoop bangs? Should anti-anxiety drug marketing campaigns target pop fans, who seem to be all sorts of nervous?

Fucking of course not. Obviously, there are exceptions to these personality trends North observed, but for the most part, they do seem to be kind of true.

But regardless of whether or not you can name friends who listen to each category and perfectly exhibit those traits, the sheer fact that North found those traits to be common among those genres is really something you could use to your benefit. If you knew more about people’s musical preferences, you might be able to anticipate their needs, strengths and weaknesses before they’re aware you’re doing it. Seems like a fun party trick or a diabolical manipulation scheme. Either way, you’re welcome.

Of course, North’s summary is missing a million and one key genre-personality comparisons. There’s no mention of classic rock, oldies, R&B, punk, Motown, country, folk, swing, or any of the other trillion musical sub-genres that exist today. It’s unclear whether those sub-genres are missing from this summary list because people who prefer them have personalities that are difficult to generalize, or because North simply lumped all of music into those six genres. Clearly, that's point to a big smelly gap in North's research.

To better understand how music and personality are so deeply entwined then,  it may be best to figure out what leads a person to listen to a specific song or type of music in the first place.

One study called, "Personality and music: Can traits explain how people use music in everyday life?" attempted to explain just that. It found that music was associated with three main psychological functions helping to improve performance, stimulating curiosity, and helping to bring out certain emotions that the listener desires.

Also, the reason that a person listens to music, whether it’s to deal with emotions or as background noise, is also linked to notable differences in personality. Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, co-author of the study, writes that “because mood is so closely related to personality it would make sense that musical preference gave insight to who a person was.”

Musical preference dictates much more than personality, however. Turns out, it’s a fine predictor of demographics and socioeconomic traits.

“I think that if we have the ability to take all factors into account — a person’s age, gender, nationality, social class, everything except their personality — we could probably predict 30 percent of their musical preference,” Chamorro-Premuzic said.

This is reflected in North’s research, which showed trends such as those who like “high art music” (opera, jazz, and classical) tended to be “better educated, have higher income, and have greater access to financial resources than fans of other music genres.”

There’s also been an effort in this body of research to determine whether musical preference can change a person’s personality, the most notable example of this of course being whether violent music can turn a gentle person into a societal hazard. That was the big question in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting, when it was discovered that the shooters had been fans of “black metal” bands like Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, and Metallica.

Hint: No. Music alone cannot change a person’s personality, yet another point against Midwestern sensibilities and suburban soccer mom dogma.

“There is no evidence that musical preference can change people’s personalities,” Charmorro-Premuzic said. “The only thing we know is that with certain types of music, people who listen to that music tend to be quite aggressive in the first place. Listening to this music releases their aggressive tendencies.”

So, to sum up, music influences mood which influences personality, but not to a degree where in can appreciably change someone permanently. Music is a good predictor of personality and lifestyle, but it can be dangerous and stupid to assume the rules apply to everyone. And as for why all Kid Rock ascribe to the belief that less is more when it comes to teeth, well, that research is still ongoing.