Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Personality and Physical Responses to Music


Kelsey Procter, Steven Rouse


Steven Rouse, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

This study examined the correlation between personality factors and physical responses to music categorized into operationally defined emotions. There have been previous studies done on physical responses and self-perceived reaction to different music types and the relationship between personality and music preference, while there is a deficit of research connecting personality with physical responses to music. The current study was completed to fill that void. It was hypothesized that there would be a significant correlation between personality and the participants’ physical responses to music. During individual appointments, participants completed a personality inventory containing the following factors: openness to experience, extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Next, physical responses were assessed by heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR) while listening to one-minute instrumental music clips, operationally defined as unsettling, peaceful, happy, and sad. Each participant listened to the same twenty clips of music, five from each category. Significant positive correlations between change in HR when listening to unsettling and peaceful music were found for the agreeableness and extroversion sub-sets. A significant positive correlation was also found between change in HR and extroversion when listening to happy music. Traits associated with neuroticism in previous research, such as anxiousness, moodiness, and emotionality suggest that neurotic people would have a greater physical response to emotionally charged music. Surprisingly, the results of this study are in direct opposition to this prediction. Neuroticism had a negative correlation for all emotional categories and was significant at the .01 level for unsettling music and peaceful music. Limitations included a sample size of forty-four and the accuracy of the GSR monitor. Data from the GSR did not generate any significant results, although some data was tending toward significance. Correcting the limitations in future research may produce significant results for the correlation between GSR and the personality sub-sets.

Presented by:

Kelsey Procter, Steven Rouse


Saturday, November 17, 2012


8:45 AM — 9:00 AM


Bell Tower 1424

Presentation Type:

Oral Presentation