You Are What You Hear, Psychologists Say
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - August 03, 2003

What's in a CD collection?

Two psychologists say, a lot.

Whether you're a partyer. A brooder. Intellectual. Vocabularily challenged. Dumb as a rock.

The psychologists, Jason Rentfrow and Sam Gosling of the University of Texas, conducted surveys of thousands of people's musical tastes, then came up with four distinct personality categories. Here are some of the characteristics listed in each: > Intense and rebellious: Like rock, alternative, heavy metal; you're an extrovert and sensation seeker. > Reflective and complex: Favor classical, jazz, folk, blues; you are politically liberal and a good conversationalist. > Upbeat and conventional: Listen to country, religious, pop; you are conservative and shy away from new challenges. > Energetic and rhythmic: Fans of funk, hip-hop, soul, electronica; you are enthusiastic, outgoing and liberal.

But can so much really be determined by whether you like Mozart or Nelly?

Henry Smith, 56, of Spanish Moss, a little village on Tybee Island, says he loves Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and "all those foreign guys" but isn't politically liberal, as the study suggests. He does embrace some liberal causes.

Jesse Altman, 25, of Atlanta likes rap and hip-hop, but also lots of the oldies he heard his parents playing when he was growing up. And though the researchers say hip-hop lovers in general don't like people who're conservative, Altman does, but considers himself liberal.

Rentfrow cautions that the categories and characteristics reflect averages, and that many of the thousands of people surveyed "crossed over into more than one group."

Music, he says, won't tell "you the whole story," but can reveal "useful information that may not be apparent upon first meeting someone," including traits you'd rather keep hidden.

The results are published in the June issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ON THE WEB How do you rate? Test yourself. Take psychologists Jason Rentfrow and Sam Gosling's personality tests by visiting their Web site at and it'll tell you about you. And you might be surprised.

Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This news story is not produced by the American Psychological Association and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the association.

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Last updated: 08/07/2003 - 10:51 AM