Clay Aiken – What’s Your Music Identity?

It may not be possible to judge a book by its cover, but judging someone by the contents of their iTunes library could be a very different story, new research suggests.

Dr Jason Rentfrow is a Psychologist at the University of Cambridge, and Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology. He just finished a research project at the University that revealed that many of us use musical taste both as a means of expressing our own identity, and a means to form and refine our opinions about other people.

Dr. Rentfrow’s research team found that sample groups of subjects make assumptions about people’s personalities, values, social class and even their ethnicity, based on their musical preferences.

Rock fans, for instance, are commonly held to be rebellious and artistic, but emotionally unstable. Classical music-lovers, on the other hand, are seen as personable and intellectual, but unattractive and a bit boring.

There have been interesting results from this study.  They show that music is a powerful form of social expression that can reinforce stereotypes and, potentially, social prejudices. By stating a preference for a musical style, many people appear to use music as a “badge” to tell others about their personality and values.

Dr. Rentfrow said the following about his research results.

“Humans, as social beings, develop techniques that help them to predict what another person is going to be like from the moment they first meet.  Because we can’t carry out a full psychological assessment on the spot, we ask them questions which help us to build up a picture of their personality. This research suggests that, even though our assumptions may not be accurate, we get a very strong impression about someone when we ask them what music they like.”

Dr Rentfrow asked the participants to consider six broad genres – rock, pop, electronica, rap, classical and jazz. No definition of the genre was given beyond its name as the researchers were interested in the assumptions that people would make.  The profiles for each genre were both consistent and differed sharply from one another, suggesting that the stereotypes are both clear-cut and firmly held by many subjects.

Jazz fans, for example, were viewed as friendly, emotionally stable people with a limited sense of responsibility. Rap fans were viewed as more hostile, but were seen as energetic and athletic. Classical music was linked to white, upper-class people and rap to black or mixed black people from lower class backgrounds. Those with a preference for rock songs are deemed to be “natural rebels”, thoroughly irresponsible and emotionally unstable, while pop fans are seen as conventional and calm but lacking in intelligence and wisdom. All six styles were associated with middle class people.

The study suggests that while these stereotypes may not be true, they do mean that people are making clear statements about their self-image and their personality when they discuss their favorite bands or composers. The researchers also found that the way in which these genres are portrayed by artists and in the media appears to reinforce, and therefore perpetuate, such stereotypes.

“It is now common practice to list your favorite bands on sites like MySpace or Facebook,” Dr Rentfrow added. “This research shows that in doing so, many of us are also making clear public statements of who we are and how we should be perceived, whether we are conscious of that or not.”

What stereotype do we portray if our iPod is filled with music by Clay Aiken?  Maybe Rentfrow’s research about Pop fans shocked Clay into deciding to perform all genres of music.  Who would want to be saddled with fans that are “conventional and calm but lacking in intelligence and wisdom.”

What is on your iPod?  Does it fit your musical image?


Clay Aiken News Network is an unofficial fansite. We are not affiliated in any way with Clay Aiken or his management. This website was made by fans for fans and makes no impression or impersonation of the official site, which can be found under the domain clayaiken.com.

Comments

  1. there's virtually everything in my iPod right now…maybe with the exeption of brass band music.

    does it mean I'm a schizophrenic or somethig? lol

    it has to be said, tho, that Clay's music is pretty much an exeption as I don't listen to other singers with a similar style. Clay won me over with his voice and those banters. 🙂

  2. Interesting study ~ my problem is that I fall into a lot of “categories” which have “personality traits” completely opposite of each other (e.g., I love rock AND classical music,
    many many genres also)

    Rock fans, for instance, are commonly held to be rebellious and artistic, but emotionally unstable.

    Classical music-lovers, on the other hand, are seen as personable and intellectual, but unattractive and a bit boring.

    I’m a bit of a mess eh?

    LOL ~ very interesting, thanks for a great blog as usual.

    Rock fans, for instance, are commonly held to be rebellious and artistic, but emotionally unstable. Classical music-lovers, on the other hand, are seen as personable and intellectual, but unattractive and a bit boring.

    • Musicfan,

      Being into a bit of most musical genres, I could just DITTO VoxLvr’s comment and be “a bit of a mess,” LOL!

      Did Dr. Rentfrow miss country music? Having lived in Nashville for several years, I also appreciate this strain, too. After all, country paid the bills in our home for several seasons.

      Thnx for a very informative and enjoyable read. Have a great week!

      Caro

  3. Well, since I have an open musical palette, I can and do enjoy all genres. There are some I stay away from (like improvisational jazz) but by and large I enjoy to mix up the musical fabric of my life.

    Guess that makes me a well rounded person 😀 (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

    Very interesting article musicfan. I think that people do tend to stereotype others based on the type of music they listen to.

    Maybe I’d be stereotyped as a hot mess, since I enjoy Bach, The Beatles, The Ramones, Fear, Black Flag, Metallica, The Temptations, Rossini, the Black Eyed Peas and yes, Clay Aiken. 🙂

  4. Fascinating! I love this site. My iPod is…well, it fits ME. Wouldn’t fit most others my age. I lots of classic rock, oldies, 80’s stuff, classical, big band, a bunch of audiobooks, and all the Clay I can stuff in there.

    My favorites (besides Clay, who is my #1 most played artist) include the BoDeans, Jackson Browne, Chris Isaak, the Beatles, Steve Miller Band, Foreigner, Electric Light Orchestra, the Eagles, and so on.

  5. Hummmmmm. Interesting study, albeit I don’t particularly agree with it (in some instances, yes – in mine, no). I have an eclectic taste in music, varied genres included in that. I love live music of ANY kind (except progressive jazz where I have no clue when the end is and have to wait upon others to applaud before I begin applauding in the middle of the piece lol).

    Thanks for such an insightful blog (as always)

  6. Interesting study, but to me it’s lacking choices, thus
    pigeon-holing people. My music library has everything from classical to Clay Aiken. My kids say I have elevator music taste..fine by me! I have asked them what elevator they heard Clay Aiken on..so I could go ride up and down with him, LOL.

  7. I’m still recovering from your la Vida Loca blog. I have many diversified interests in music so it’s hard to pinpoint me down to just one; guess I’m schizophrenic that way when it comes to music. I DO know I love Clay Aiken’s music – it’s soothing and uplifting at the same time.

  8. I am lisening to my iPod right now as a matter of fact! But, I guess I am rather boring because you won’t catch me with any rap or hard rock on it! I have to have some kind of melody and lyrics I can understand! Clay Aiken might be on it…I’ll have to check! LOL

  9. If I like pop, rock and jazz… Does that mean I take the best of each category or does it mean that I’m a mess???!!

  10. I listen to all genres of music…except rap. But, I mainly listen to Clay Aiken. I love everything he does. Guess that makes me a pretty satisfied and happy person.

  11. Fascinating article. I didn’t quite understand where country, AC or hot AC listeners come in. I would assume the the research is based on today’s music in those genres. Seems like there are more music genres than ever. Radio stations pretty much stick to one genre. I’d like to read more about this subject.

  12. I’m seeing a pattern here. Many of us are multi-music genre fans. I love Rock and Roll… Pop… and Christian Contemorary Music. Am I a rebellious, unintelligent do-gooder? No.. Like Clay… an angel with a crooked halo? lol I think this professor needs to revisit his study for this thesis. It’s way too narrow to say a person can be passionate about only one music genre.

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