Updated: May 10
Music plays a big part in our lives. We listen to lullabies and nursery rhymes when we are young. As we grow up, we develop our preference for the music we like. Music is also played at important events in our lives - from falling in love to weddings and funerals too. Music is almost synonymous with the human experience, with different genres providing comfort, joy and stress relief to our lives. It is a series of sounds, or organised vibrations and can have an influence on our behaviours. But how does music influence our behaviour?
Music defines our personality
A study on the relationship between music preferences and personality has shown that musical preferences can reflect the Big Five personality traits. The Big Five personality traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability.
A number of Spotify users were asked to opt-in a research to study their music listening over a period of three months, including information about the genres and moods of music they inclined. The survey also found how people listen to music: Do they discover new music or listen to old ones? A machine learning model was then trained to predict someone’s personality using only their preferences and demographic information.
The study found that personality traits could be perceived using musical preferences and of the Big Five personality traits, music taste is best able to detect Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness. These two traits are highly related to age and gender and show a connection between common uses of music to regulate emotion or match goal-oriented behaviour.
Those who enjoy ambient music, for instance, are more open to experiences and are able to process abstract information more easily. Ambient music can promote creativity. Rock music, on the other hand, improves emotional intelligence and facilitates personal motivation and suits those who have dynamic personalities and are emotionally charged. Hip-hop also has the same effects.
Music affects our behaviour
Besides having a close connection to our personalities, music also influences our feelings and behaviour. Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor who works on a music therapy programme at the University of Miami, researches the effect of music in the workplace. She studied various information technology specialists who listened to music while completing some tasks and found that those who listened to music finished certain tasks more quickly. They also produced more creative ideas than others. Lesuik believes this is in large part due to the effect of music on one’s mood.
Another way music influences our behaviour is how we choose soothing sounds to reduce stress. We also select slow temp or classical music to help us battle insomnia or to sleep more deeply. Similarly, we also use fast-paced and dynamic music to improve our athletic performance. Studies have shown that listening to songs high in energy and rhythm can motivate people to run faster and endure exercise more efficiently.
Music impact on fashion
Music doesn’t just influence our personality and how we perform tasks, exercise or sleep. Music also has an undeniable impact on fashion and the way we dress. Whether it's the 1960s or the 1980s, fashion designers have been inspired by the music of their era and the clothes we wear today are equally influenced by music.
Folk music in the 1960s influenced the hippie movement, where relaxed clothing with colourful prints, patterns, as well as denim came into style defining the 60s generation. Similarly, hip-hop music made baggy outfits and basketball jerseys into style. Punk music inspired mohawk hairstyles, leather, metal spikes, chains and military-style boots.
The impact music has on the many aspects of life escapes our notice. But it is undeniable how music affects our personality, behaviour and even the way we choose our fashion.