Spotify, the worldwide streaming platform giant, conducted a research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science in July 2020. They state that musical preferences can reflect the Big Five personality traits on par or better than prior big data personality studies.
Spotify asked a small group of US based users to participate in a study over three months, including information about the genres and moods of music that they listen to. It was possible to opt-out at any given moment. The company decided to not only measure what people listened to but how: “Do you discover new music or listen to old favorites? Are your tastes diverse? Do you have regular listening habits?” Thanks to that Spotify could build a more nuanced understanding of their users’ preferences.
At the same time all study participants were asked to fill out the Big Five Inventory, a 44-item questionnaire measuring the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability.
Then they combined the results and traned a machine learning model to predict someone’s personality using only their preferences and demographic information. “To gain additional insight into these models, we measured correlations between each personality trait and the suite of metrics we constructed to represent what and how someone listens to.” – they wrote.
What did they learn? That of the five personality traits we measured, music taste is best able to detect Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness: “Those who self-assessed as more “open to new experiences” tended to listen to more Classical, Afropop, or “Sentimental” music (e.g. “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis, “April Come She Will” by Simon & Garfunkel). Listening to Blues or “Brooding” music (e.g. “Take Care” by Drake, “Karma Police” by Radiohead) has an inverse relationship with self-assessing for “emotional stability,” while listening to Soul or “Lively” music (e.g. “Down On The Corner” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Let The Good Times Roll” by Ray Charles) correlates positively. People who listen to Death Metal or “Aggressive” music (e.g. “Boss” by Lil Pump, “Last Resort” by Papa Roach) tended to have less “agreeable” self-assessments, while people who listen to Jazz or Country had more.”
Turns out people who listen more to Discover Weekly tended to identify as more “open to new experiences,” as did people with higher all-time track discovery rates. Those who scored high in Conscientiousness were more steady in their listening schedules than those who scored lower in that trait. Extroverts tended to listen more to others’ playlists, potentially indicating more reliance on their social network’s music suggestions. Self-assessed introverts, on the other hand, tended to dig deeper into an artist’s catalog, listening to more tracks for each artist they discovered.
There’s still a lot to be discovered, but clearly our personalities are shown in our musical choices and the way we discover music.
Source: Spotify research
We measured users’ listening habits, both what and how they listened to music, and compared it to their scores on a personality survey.
A selection of significant correlations for Conscientiousness and Openness, organized by variable category (blue = derived, orange = genre, green = mood).
A selection of significant correlations for Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, and Extraversion, organized by variable category (blue = derived, orange = genre, green = mood).
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