Perspectives on the Grateful Dead: Critical Writings

By Robert G. Weiner | Go to book overview

The Grateful Dead Experience: A Factor Analytic Study of the Personalities of People Who Identify with the Grateful Dead

William McCownandWendy Dulaney


INTRODUCTION TO PERSONALITY FROM THE TRAIT PERSPECTIVE

Since Plato’s Republic, music has long been recognized to have a profound influence on behavior (Goldron; Nettl). For example, it is now known that music produces specific and unique neural patterns, including specific alterations in brain waves (Rideout and Laubach). Rock music is no exception in its profound influence (Gracyk). It is likely that specific personality traits are more apt to be attracted to specific types of music (McCown, Keiser, Mulhearn, and Williamson). However, there is very little research in this area. Only recently are behavioral scientists beginning to ask if specific personality characteristics are associated with certain varieties of music, including rock.

What characterizes people who identify with the Grateful Dead? Is there any uniformity in their personalities? Anecdotal accounts abound. The popular media suggests that the Deadheads are a fairly dysfunctional, motley group, essentially living a bacchanalian, perhaps even nomadic or sociopathic, existence (Greenfield; Will). In fact, in an influential, though grossly exaggerated, paper based on clinical observation of drug-overdose subjects, Deadheads were characterized in an exceedingly negative manner (Millman and Beeder).

These descriptors are at odds with the experiences of many Grateful Dead fans, who appear to be a happy, compassionate, and psychologically stable group (Scully and Dalton). Speculation regarding personality factors of people who have had what can best be labeled the Grateful Dead experience (GDE)—an intense identification with the group and subsequent deep enjoyment of its music—is probably insufficient for an adequate understand-

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