Music and Interpersonal Perception

Overview

In December 2013, I wrote a 21-page Research Paper for a Psychology course that received an Honorable Mention for the Psychology Scholar Award.

For my paper, I conducted research on the intersection between music, identity, and interpersonal perception and designed my own experimental study to expand the research of current psychologists on this topic. 


Introduction

Music represents one of the most versatile, diverse, and ubiquitous media forms in modern-day society, and research shows that we each form a unique relationship with music that reflects who we are. One key factor of this relationship would be the strong correlation between our musical preferences and personality traits. For example, generally speaking, excitement-seeking individuals prefer hard rock music, and a positive correlation exists between listeners’ gregariousness, warmth, and positivity of emotions, and their tendency to prefer popular, upbeat songs about friendship and love (Rawlings & Ciancarelli, 1997). Even more specific and consistent correlations have been drawn using individuals’ musical preferences as demonstrated in the Short Test of Music Preference (STOMP), a questionnaire devised by psychologists Rentfrow and Gosling (2006), and the Five Factor Model approach to personality taxonomy as measured by the NEO Personality Inventory (Rawlings & Ciancarelli, 1997). Furthermore, we recognize these prevailing links between personality traits and musical preferences and allow music to guide our interpersonal perception. For example, research emphasizes music as one of the most common conversational topics between young adults meeting for the first time (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2006). Even in zero-acquaintance scenarios, such as when we read a list of a complete stranger’s favorite songs, we consistently deduce strikingly accurate information about his or her level of introversion or extraversion, openness to new experiences, and more (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2006). However, while previous psychologists have exposed and even validated our tendencies to judge each other based on musical preference, they have yet to measure the strength of these associations. For example, how does our interpersonal perception change when music becomes more or less accurately informative of personality traits? What happens when an inconsistency or conflict severs the normally structured and predictable tie between music and identity? My research question will specifically assess the degree to which manipulating the “informativeness” of musical preference, such as by creating a divide between music and identity, colors our evaluations of others’ Big Five personality traits. Thus, the results of my study will add a new dimension to previous psychologists’ research by exploring the intersection between music, personality, and interpersonal perception from a completely different lens.

Experimental Study

Summary

This study addresses the effect of manipulating the “informativeness” of music (i.e. whether or not the correct musical preferences are conveyed) on the accuracy of individuals’ evaluations of a stranger’s personality (specifically the Big Five personality traits: extraversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness).

Participants

In total, the participants will include 6,200 young females between ages 18 and 21 who will be recruited to participate in a “Mock Interview Study.” Of these participants, 6000 will be categorized as “interviewers” and divided evenly and randomly between the two Experimental Groups and one Control Group, allowing for 2000 participants per group. The remaining 200 participants will be brought into the study as research study confederates and play the roles of the “interviewees.”

Recruitment will occur over email, on the online social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, and in-person on various college and university campuses around the nation. I will ensure a randomized sample of participants by contacting females in the diverse set of aforementioned contexts, as well as reaching out to college communities that differ based on a wide range of criteria: average socio-economic status, ethnic and racial demographic, religious affiliation, academic rigor, athletic prowess, and more.

In order to be eligible for both the interviewer and interviewee roles, participants must speak English as a native language and exhibit general awareness of different types of music existing in society. The interviewees must also demonstrate a preferred genre of music. I will test these eligibility requirements by sending out a short survey, as noted and exemplified in the “Measures” Section of this paper. If more than 200 candidates fulfill the extra requirement to serve as an interviewee, 200 candidates will be randomly chosen to be interviewees from all that qualify. 

Procedure

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