Roy analyzes correlation between personality, music genre preference

Kaitlin Gibboney November 13, 2013 0
Roy analyzes correlation between personality, music genre preference

Music is such a prevalent force in the lives of many people around the world. Various types and styles of music exist to appeal to a wide range of people. Musicians and non-musicians alike can enjoy music based off of their own interests. However, what does music preference say about you? In addition, are musicians and non-musicians different in certain aspects? Dr. Michael Roy, associate professor of psychology, presented his research on the topic of the psychology of music Friday evening at Bowers.

Roy earned his doctoral degree in psychology from the University of California in San Diego, where he also continued with his post-doctoral training. He also completed post-doctoral training at the University of Illinois, Ubrana-Champaign. Roy’s past research has focused on a variety of topics, such as the relationships between dogs and their owners, why tasks take much longer to perform than anticipated and the differences between musicians and non-musicians.

Roy specializes in music as a percussionist and therefore has always found the topic of music in psychology fascinating. Using his passion for music, Roy, along with former Elizabethtown College professor and fellow musician Dr. Karendra Devroop, has conducted studies in how personality and music mutually affect one another.

In his studies, Roy has focused on a few different aspects of music and psychology: how personality predicts why people listen to music and what kind of music they listen to, differences in personality between musicians and non-musicians, if personality can predict whether or not people can get a song stuck in their head and if playing music can affect or change personality. “I’ve been a musician and I’ve been playing for a little over 30 years now,” Roy said. “I went back to graduate school and was actually very excited to go there. When I went to interview, I found out that there were a few people who did the psychology of music, and I thought that’s what I was going to do.”

Although Roy studied many other topics than psychology in music in graduate school, he decided to study the topic in his time at Etown. “When I got here in the first year, I met Karendra Devroop, who used to be in the music department,” Roy said. “Originally from South Africa, he came to me with an idea about getting a grant to bring instruments to South Africa. We went to a secondary school in South Africa to set up a music program.”

In the public schools, there are no music programs for the students. In helping to set up the program, Roy was able to put his own set of skills to use in South Africa. “I think Devroop brought me in because I was a musician, and I could bring in this other perspective of psychology to run some experiments and test how effective this program was in changing students’ lives,” he said.

In his research with students in South Africa and at Etown, Roy has found some interesting information concerning psychological aspects of musicians. A few factors that affect the way people interact with music are stress, optimism and ruminations. Stress and optimism can have an effect on use and preference for different types of music. For example, people who are stressed tend to benefit from listening to calming music, like classical music. In addition, those who are more optimistic tend to not listen to music as frequently as those who are more stressed.

Other factors are ruminations and the tendency to overthink problems. They play a role in the way musicians and non-musicians listen to music. Two categories of rumination, reflective and brooding, are used to examine the differences between musicians and non-musicians. Musicians have a tendency to reflect on their past actions, while non-musicians tend to brood upon them instead. Through reflective rumination, the person’s musicianship and tone are improved more than they are in those who tend to prefer brooding rumination. In another study, Roy studied the frequency of earworms, the phenomena of songs becoming “stuck in your head,” in relation to rumination. Those whose reports were highest in brooding rumination tended to experience higher cases of earworms than others.

With Roy’s research, information on a person’s musical preferences can be determined through psychology. Even factors like optimism can be assessed through music choice. Roy stated that people who tend to be more optimistic don’t listen to music as frequently as those who are more pessimistic. Genre of music also affects the reason why people listen to music.  Classical music is seen as beneficial to the listener for stress relief while jazz or metal generally appeal to those who enjoy analyzing the music itself.

From his final studies of the South Africa project, Roy observed that overall the students experienced higher levels of optimism and lower levels of stress since the music program was added to the school. Through Etown’s motto “Educate for Service” and his own passion toward music, Roy has made significant progress in studying the psychology of music and benefiting students around the world.

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