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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.

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Chris Haigh

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

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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