See Inside March / April 2011

You Are What You Like

The Beatles or Brahms, Bauhaus or Baroque--your cultural preferences say a lot about your personality

A friend invites you to his new apartment. As he cues up an old jazz record, you look around his cluttered room for somewhere to sit. Works of literature and philosophy are stacked waist-high next to the desk. Thumbtacks anchor a colorful Picasso print to the wall. His collection of foreign films and documentaries topples out of an unpacked box. His housemate’s digs—which you spy across the hall—are a different story: a framed Monet poster hangs over the neatly made bed; top-40 CD cases and box sets of TV sitcoms line the shelves; carefully arranged gossip magazines fill a nearby rack.

Without even meeting the roommate, you are willing to bet that these two won’t live together for long, and, in fact, you are probably right. An increasing number of psychological studies reveal strong associations between personality traits and aesthetic tastes. According to these investigations, the jazz aficionado—who prefers challenging books and abstract art—is more likely to be an extrovert and open to new experiences. The top-40 fan, on the other hand, probably shies away from novelty. Based on his fondness for Impressionist art, though, he is likely to be agreeable and conscientious.

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