Openness to Experience Predicts Untapped Musical Ability

David M. Greenberg

David M. Greenberg

Openness to Experience was the most accurate predictors of musical ability, even among people with no musical experience, found University of Cambridge’s David M. Greenberg and Daniel Müllensiefen of University of London.

Daniel Müllensiefen

Daniel Müllensiefen

This finding enables parents and educators to encourage promising but inexperienced musical talent to pursue the cognitive and performance-enhancing benefits of musical training, described in earlier blog posts.

For example, musical training’s beneficial effect on reducing the cost of task switching is relevant in many work situations that require rapid shifts in attentional focus, and was empirically validated by York University’s Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

More than among 7,800 participants provided detailed demographic information, including their musical experience.
In addition, they completed the Big Five Inventory of personality dimensions, developed by NIH’s Paul Costa and Robert McCrae:

  • Extroversion,
  • Agreeableness,
  • Conscientiousness,
  • Neuroticism,
  • Openness to Experience.
Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Within Openness to Experience, volunteers rated their agreement with Openness to Aesthetics items like:
“I see myself as someone who:

  • values artistic, aesthetic experiences,
  • has few artistic interests,
  • is sophisticated in art, music, or literature.”

Besides their Openness to Aesthetic experience, participants rated their musical expertise, and completed musical ability assessments.
Almost three-quarters reported playing no musical instrument.

Linda Moradzadeh

Linda Moradzadeh

Volunteers listened to unfamiliar 10-note to 17-note melodies, which were repeated in a different key, then decided whether the two melodies were the same.
In another musical skills task, volunteers listened to excerpts of instrumental music were overlaid with a metronomic beep, then judged whether the beep was on the beat.
Those who scored higher on Openness to Experience performed significantly better on musical tasks, even if they reported no musical experience.

Galit Blumenthal

Galit Blumenthal

These findings suggest that it’s possible to identify people who are likely to have musical talent based on their personality characteristics, even if they have no musical experience.
This research may encourage families, educators, and academic policy makers to encourage music training and capitalize on its well-documented cognitive benefits – even among those who are Open to Experience but not musically experienced.

-*How does Openness to Experience enhance work-related performance?

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