Message in a ballad: personality judgements [sic] based on music preferences

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Rentfrow, Peter Jason

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This dissertation examines the role music plays in interpersonal perception. Drawing from research indicating that music preferences and personality are linked, this work focuses on the impressions elicited from such information. Four independent studies were conducted to determine whether people could form impressions on the basis of music preferences, whether those impressions are accurate, and the perceptual paths underlying them. The results from the first study revealed that observers were able to form consensual and accurate impressions about targets using nothing more than their favorite songs. The results also suggested that observers relied on music attributes to form their impressions. Findings from the three subsequent studies revealed robust, genre-specific, and accurate music stereotypes, which suggest another way in which people develop music-based personality judgements. Supplementary analyses indicated that music attributes (e.g., loud, angry) and genre stereotypes (e.g., a rock music fan) contribute differentially to accuracy. Results offer insight into the social functions of music preferences by highlighting their consequences in interpersonal perception. This work also points out the value of studying the social and personality psychology of everyday life.