Source: University of Cambridge
The old adage says practice makes perfect, but a new study from the University of Cambridge has shown that personality also plays a key role in musical ability, even for those who do not play an instrument.
In a study published this week in the Journal of Research in Personality, a team of psychologists identified that the personality trait ‘Openness’ predicts musical ability and sophistication. People who score highly on Openness are imaginative, have a wide range of interests, and are open to new ways of thinking and changes in their environment.
Previous convention has held that the amount you practice is the key to success. This idea received widespread attention earlier this decade when writer Malcolm Gladwell argued that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any domain, whether it is sports, music, art, or chess. But scientists are now discovering that there may be other factors involved as well.
Psychologists from the University of Cambridge and Goldsmiths University teamed with the BBC to recruit over 7,000 volunteers, in what is the largest study to date on personality and musical expertise. The team led by doctoral researcher David Greenberg, tested the participants on various musical abilities including melodic memory and rhythm perception. Performance on these tests was then linked to their scores on the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN).
They found that aside from musical experience, the next best predictor of musical ability was personality, and specifically, Openness. While people who are high on Openness are open to new ways of thinking, people who score low on Openness (or who are ‘Closed’) are more set in their ways, prefer routine and the familiar, and tend to have more conventional values. For example, someone high on Openness will likely take a vacation to a new destination each year, whereas someone low on Openness is likely to revisit the same location year after year.
In addition to Openness, the researchers also found that Extraversion was linked to higher self-reported singing abilities.
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