Scientists Link Common Personality Trait To Musical Ability

Psychologists have long known that some people are unusually curious and adventurous, and more willing than others to try new things.

Now there’s new research suggesting that these individuals — people with “open” personalities — are also more likely to be gifted musically.

“We had expected to see that openness predicted musical ability for those who played a musical instrument, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that openness also predicted musical ability for those who had no musical experience at all,” David Greenberg, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Cambridge and lead author of a paper about the research, told The Huffington Post in an email.

For the paper, which was published in this month’s Journal of Research in Personality, Greenberg and his collaborators tested the musical abilities (including the ability to perceive rhythms and recall melodies) of more than 7,800 men and women, including musicians and non-musicians.

Then the participants completed questionnaires designed to gauge their levels of extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience — the so-called “Big Five” personality traits.

When the researchers analyzed their data, they noticed that openness had the strongest link to musical ability out of all of the personality traits. This was the case even when the researchers took into account demographic variables and musical experience.

The researchers also found that extraversion was linked to higher self-reported singing abilities, which suggests that being extraverted may allow singers to be more assertive and comfortable in the spotlight, they said.

“There may be other factors in addition to personality that affect the development of musical ability,” Dr. Michael Lamb, professor of psychology at the university and a co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. “For example, what role does parenting play in fostering —> Read More