Music and Personality Term Paper

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Music & Personality

Music has been acknowledged to be a universal form of communication. Even with the barriers of language, music allows the sharing of feelings, thoughts, and meanings. Research is finding that it can be an invaluable tool of communication, education and therapy for those with special needs or disorders. Music is recognized to be able to evoke profound emotions, but modern technology is only just discovering how many of these responses are actually a result of powerful physical and physiological effects various aspects of music has on the human body. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

The importance of music also stems from the fact that it plays an increasingly significant role in the lives of the average modern individual. Each of us is surrounded by music targeted at us from radio, television, films, advertisements, the internet, and various other commercial devices produced by technology. It is no longer a distinct aspect of cultures and traditional rites, but rather a part of everyday life. It affects our moods, and infiltrates the thought processes which shape our identities and behavior. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

The idea of personality and self has evolved over the years to now being described as, 'something which is constantly being reconstructed and renegotiated according to the experiences, situations and other people with whom we interact in everyday life.' (Hargreaves, 1999) Our identities and self-concepts are affected by a complex set of factors that have appeared in lifestyles due to globalization and technology. Interwoven in these influences is the role of music. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

Music psychology is a diverse and ever expanding field that has connections with disciplines such as cognitive science and computing, sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, education, medicine and health studies, acoustics, broadcasting, marketing and communication studies, as well as with music and musicology. (Hargreaves, 1999) Cognitive psychology of music investigates the effects of tones, intervals and scales on listeners and explores the intricacies of musical structure and its impact on memory, and perception. (Hargreaves, 1997) It has even branched out to include topics such as musical expression, performance, emotional effects of music, and other issues of practical importance to musicians. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

What this article attempts to explore however is the social psychology of music. Through analysis of various studies we will investigate how our interaction with music through its creation, performance, listening and review affects our behavior and personalities. We will evaluate the social functions of music in the lives of individuals. Research suggests that these are evident in three main ways for the individual; in the management of interpersonal relationships, mood and self-identity (Hargreaves 1999).

Music often determines the social groups that we associate with, especially in the case of teenagers. Evidence also suggests that people use music to regulate their moods depending on social situation and environment. The concept of a musical identity is also emerging which alludes to the individuals sense of identity formed through his or her interaction with music. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

It is being discovered that development of the musical identity has specific age-related patterns. Papousek (1996) relates early musicality to the development of speech and communication. The formulation of musical identities in children is based both in a biological predisposition to musicality and particular groups and institutions in their everyday lives. Issues such as age, gender and personality differences have all been related to this hypothesis. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

The self-image develops by a process of monitoring our own behavior, and making social comparisons. Our self-esteem is a result of the difference between our real and ideal self-image. The greater the difference the lower the self-esteem. Like the important role of Language in constructing identities, music too has been recognized to have a similar function. 'Musical taste', can be an integral part of one's self-concept, especially in adolescence. (Hargreaves, 1999) Musical preferences vary according to age, level of musical training, aspects of cognitive style and personality, cultural and social groups. They even vary according to moods, the time of day, or their social situation. Music can have both a short-term, temporary effect and a profound influence on our beliefs and behavior. (Hargreaves, 1997, 1999)

Specific identities exist in music derived from either the musical instrument focused upon or the genre. Review of literature suggests that specific groups of instrument players have distinctive personality profiles, as have singers and conductors, perhaps reinforced by the stereotypical views of each other. This trend is even more obvious in the case of different musical genres, each being associated with specific social groups and lifestyle. (Hargreaves, 1999)

Article Summaries have isolated seven peer reviewed journal articles that deal with some aspect of music in association with its relation to personality. Each of these when studied separately and as a whole emphasize the influence of music in shaping and modifying the personalities of individuals.

Music Preferences, Personality Style, and Developmental Issues of Adolescents,

This study isolated 3 groups of adolescent music listeners who separately preferred: light qualities of music, heavy qualities of music, or had eclectic preferences. 175 participants, 97 females, 78 males, participated from junior and senior high schools in Calgary, Alberta. Questionnaires measured adolescent music preferences, and personality, developmental issues correlating behaviors. The Likert scale was used to assess how much participants enjoyed music. The Millon Adolescent Personality Inventory quantified personality characteristics and developmental.

Each of the 3 groups displayed a distinct pattern of personality dimension and developmental issues. The group preferring heavy music was characterized by independent, non-conformist individuals with lower self-esteem and higher self-doubt. They were suspicious, aggressive, antagonistic and had an insensitive manner.

Those preferring light music were conservative, serious-minded, efficient, and rule conscious. They however showed difficulty in adapting sexually and balancing their dependence on peers. Eclectics seem to be most adjusted, least concerned with developmental issues. What remains to be studied is whether eclectic taste in music facilitates adolescent adjustment or vice versa. (Schwartz 2003)

Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Suicidality. An Empirical Investigation.

This study investigated the suicidal risk of adolescent heavy metal fans. It hypothesized that such adolescents would show more maladaptive cognitive patterns, especially females. Another purpose was to evaluate the relationship between music listening, negative affect, and suicidal risk.

121 high school students from a single public institution of the American Midwest participated. Over 90% of the participants were Caucasian with 77 being female and 44 male. The Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL) was used to assess suicide risk while the Likert scale was used to assess music preferences.

Heavy metal fans were found to have significantly lower RFL total and also lower scores on: Responsibility to Family, Survival and Coping Beliefs, and, for males, Moral Objections (to suicide). The sores for male and female fans were similar.

The researchers inferred that the strained family relationships displayed by these adolescents may be the cause of greater suicide risk rather than their musical preference. The positive effects of listening to their preferred music type were less obvious in heavy metal fans indicating personal characteristics and/or life situations that encouraged suicidal thoughts. The study supported previous research that claims preference for heavy metal music should be taken as a valuable signal to examine an adolescent's social and emotional functioning indicating that heavy metal music attracts, rather than produces, troubled teens. (Scheel, 1999)

Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs with Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings.

This study investigated the effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings. 5 similar but varying experiments were performed using college students from a large Midwestern university. Experiments 1 and 2 assessed effects of violent lyrics on state hostility and aggressive cognitions, while 3 used a broader set of songs and a different measure of aggressive cognition. Experiments 4 and 5 examined the combined effects of violent humorous song lyrics on aggressive thought and affect and included trait hostility.

The State Hostility Scale, 5 point Likert scale, PAS, word completion (WC) task, and the Music Questionnaire were the used instruments. The sample number varied from 60-200 per experiment with an almost equal gender ratio.

Experiments 1, 3, 4 and 5 demonstrated that hostility increased in students exposed to violent song lyrics as opposed to ones who heard a similar but nonviolent song. Experiments 2-5 demonstrated a similar increase in aggressive thoughts. These effects replicated across songs and song types (e.g., rock, humorous, nonhumorous). Experiments 3-5 also demonstrated that trait hostility was positively related to state hostility but did not moderate the song lyric effects.

Repeated exposure to violent lyrics may contribute to the development of an aggressive personality but effects were usually short-term. Indirectly the short-term hostility evoked by such songs, affects the individuals perception of social situation and thus induced antagonistic behavior that produced long-term negative responses from peers producing further aggression. (Anderson 2003)

The Do Re Mi's of Everyday Life: Examining the Structure and Personality Correlates of Music Preferences.

This series of 6 studies explored individual differences in music preferences. It examined the lay beliefs about music, the structure…[continue]

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