Featured Topic: Music

Sarah Krivan 


What does your taste in music say about you? Oshio (2012) attributed preferences for specific music genres to personality and individual differences, stating that “music can function to reinforce one’s disposition and self-view” (p. 568). Specific examples provided in this study included the Big Five personality variable of openness to experience being linked with enjoying a wide range of genres, while people with high neuroticism scores favored classical music and slow beats, and those scoring high in extraversion preferred jazz, hard rock, and new age styles.

Not all researchers have reported such clear-cut observations, however. Magnan and Hinsz (2005) played uplifting, neutral, or morose background music to create variance in mood states among their participants, then asked them to give risk-taking advice to others in the context of (a) typically cautious and (b) risky situations. Their results were inconclusive with regard to the impact of music, with the authors noting that “the amount of risk that the advisor proposes is dependent on the situation” (p. 8).

While less of an effective gimmick in online settings, where sound is easily muted by individual consumers, music played in stores is part of the shopping experience in brick-and-mortar retail shops. Xu and Yang (2023) found that store music inhibited customers’ negative emotion in retail settings, thereby enhancing their store loyalty. This finding was echoed by Meng et al. (2023), who showed that perceived pleasantness of store music had a positive impact on customer engagement, which, in turn, positively affected customer trust.

Further, Meng and Yang (2022) reported that the positive effect of playing pleasant music extends to employees in the workplace as well. Specifically, they observed that pleasant music was positively related to hotel employees’ psychological safety, which was, in turn, positively related to the use of voice behavior. Employees’ perception of happy music was similarly found by Zhu et al. (2022) to be positively related to creative performance, with this relationship likewise being mediated by perceived psychological safety.

Yang et al. (2022) noted that the music preferences of different populations vary according to their social and cultural habits and fashions; thus, they sought to identify common likable points that might increase the broad appeal of video advertising music. The four main themes revealed through their qualitative analysis were advertising function, artistic quality, attractive characteristics (e.g., distinctiveness, being easy to remember), and ability to evoke positive affect and feelings. It seems there are many factors that coincide to inform individual music taste.

Interested in finding out more about the influence of music from a social psychology perspective? Our journal archive contains dozens of articles on this and other, related subjects over our five decades of publication. Sign up for a personal subscription to SBP to gain access to over 4,050 papers spanning the fields of social, behavioral, and developmental psychology.


The relationship between dichotomous thinking and music preferences among Japanese undergraduates – Atsushi Oshio, 2012, 40(4), 567–574.

Mood, gender, and situational influences on risk-taking advice for others – Renee E. Magnan and Verlin B. Hinsz, 2005, 33(1), 1–10.

Store music and customer loyalty to the store: Negative emotion as a mediator – Jiaqi Xu and Heping Yang, 2023, 51(4), Article e12318.

The effect of pleasantness of store music on customers’ engagement and trust – Dashan Meng, Manoon Tho-ard, and Heping Yang, 2023, 51(6), Article e12418.

Pleasant music and voice behavior in the workplace: The mediating role of psychological safety – Dashan Meng and Jiawei Yang, 2022, 50(2), Article e11105.

Happy music and employee creativity in the workplace: Psychological safety as a mediator – Quan Zhu, Weicheng Li, and Yuxin Chen, 2022, 50(4), Article e11390.

What kinds of online video advertising music do people like? A qualitative study – Ruo Yang, Yongzhong Yang, Xiaoting Song, and Yu Zhang, 2022, 50(2), Article e10961.