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Scientists Find People Who Are Open-Minded And Empathetic Are Musically Gifted

Scientists Find People Who Are Open-Minded And Empathetic Are Musically Gifted

Personality is the most often-discussed area of psychology and neuroscience in the modern era – the ideas of whether or not our personality is inherent and fixed or whether or not it changes and adapts over time thanks to social and environmental factors. Fortunately, new research has indicated that there might be a link between a musical aptitude and personality – namely that more adventurous and curious individuals are more likely to be musically gifted.

The Research

The research, conducted at the University of Cambridge, has shown that according to the tenements of pre-existing personality theory, namely the ‘Big Five’ pillars of personality, people who exhibit higher levels in ‘openness to experience’ are more likely to have musical ability or are musically talented.

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The study, present within the current month’s ‘Journal of Research in Personality, explored how David Greenberg, a PhD student at Cambridge and the lead researcher of this study, and his team found a link between openness to experience and musical ability – not only of those who already played musical instruments but those who had no previous experience and to whom the ability was predicted.

The Study

Participants within the study were tested on their musical abilities, such as the abilities to recall melodies and to perceive rhythms, with both musicians and non-musicians included within the test population. They were then given the questionnaire that examines for the ‘Big Five’ personality traits.

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The Big Five personality traits were aspects of human personality channeled into a questionnaire method of assessing personality developed by researchers from the 1960s to the 1980s. The five traits – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (or OCEAN for short) – have stood as a major template for personality theory for decades.

“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,” Greenberg, a PhD candidate in psychology at the University of Cambridge, informed The Huffington Post in a recent article.

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The Results

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that musical ability was most strongly linked to ‘openness to experience’ – somewhat logical given that musicians’ abilities often rely on artistic experience, spontaneity, and creative expression – and that even the kind of music that people listen to and enjoy has ramifications on their personality.

Studies running parallel to this research have found that the personality trait of ‘openness’ is linked to ‘sad’ music (music with a negative or melancholic mood or feeling) and in particular to the genres of classical music and jazz.

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Furthermore, individuals who enjoy listening to ‘sad’ music tended to score highest on the traits of agreeableness, empathy, and openness in personality tests similar to the ones conducted in Greenberg, et. al’s study; this is according to the work of Dr David Huron, a music cognition professor at Ohio State University.

“Some people think that our musical behaviors are random, but recent research is showing that our daily musical experiences are tied to our personality and even other factors such as our thinking styles,” Greenberg commented. “For example, another recent study this past summer from our team showed that people’s empathy and systematizing levels were linked to their musical preferences.”

The Implications

The implications of the research are potentially global and interesting to boot; music programs at colleges and universities could implement personality tests as part of the interview process in order to best fit students to appropriate modules and programs. It could even have wider-reaching ramifications, developing the complex relationship between music and psychology as experts continue to investigate and discover how the brain reacts to and creates music.

More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

When we are still children, our thoughts seem to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

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Just imagine then how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power! We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities. We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb. We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits. We’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head.

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

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So…how exactly are we to achieve that?

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

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2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty. If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what is really important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

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4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking. It is like watching a DVD that saddens and frustrates you, completely pulling you down. Eject that old DVD, throw it away and insert a new, better, more hopeful one instead.

So, instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember: You are (or will become) what you think you are. This is reason enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

Featured photo credit: Kyaw Tun via unsplash.com

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