Personality Types of Student Musicians: A Guide for Music Educators

By Kelly, Heather | The Canadian Music Educator, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Personality Types of Student Musicians: A Guide for Music Educators


Kelly, Heather, The Canadian Music Educator


Introduction

The connections and associations between understanding students' method of learning and effective teaching practices has long been understood in the educational world. Theorists such as Howard Gardner have created entire systems for understanding how individual students learn. Understanding students' personality types can also "help teachers motivate students by embracing students' preferences and interests, and this knowledge also may inform instructional practice and assessment strategies through an understanding of how students with certain personalities are likely to behave individually and as members of a group" (MacLellan, pg. 88).

This article begins with an examination of studies that determine common personality traits of musicians. Next, research and studies examining the personality traits of musicians will be explored from various points of view, such as choice of instrument and choice of musical ensemble. The following section explains the various questionnaires used to collect results, such as the 16 Personality Factor questionnaire and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Finally, the article will attempt to identify the common personality traits of student musicians, and suggest ways for educators to adapt lessons and assessments to help these students to achieve.

Comparing Musicians to Non-Musicians

Many researchers have done studies to compare the personality traits of musicians with those of their non-music peers. Gardner (1955) administered the Guilford-Zimmerman Personality Survey, which measures ten personality traits: General Activity (G), Restraint (R), Ascendance (A), Sociability (S), Emotional Stability (E), Objectivity (O), Friendliness (F), Thoughtfulness (T), Personal Relations (P), and Masculinity (M), to 279 high school musicians and 281 non-music students. He found that male musicians were less active, less emotionally stable and less objective than non-musicians, and that female musicians were less restrained, less objective and less friendly than non-musicians. Cooley (1961) also compared the personalities of musicians to non-musicians by administering the Bernreuter Personality Inventory to 180 undergraduate students at Michigan State University who were enrolled as music students. The Bernreuter Personality Inventory consists of 125 yes or no questions which yield six scores: neurotic tendency, self-sufficiency, introversion-extraversion, dominance-submission, sociability, and confidence. Cooley's results showed significant differences from the general college population, specifically in terms of the neuroticism, introversion, confidence, and sociability scores. However, it is not clear in Cooley's study where or how the normative data was collected, which leaves some questions about the conclusions of this study.

Several studies have compared the personality traits of musicians with those of non-musicians by using the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire. The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (or 16PF) is a multidimensional set of sixteen questionnaire scales. It was developed by Raymond B. Cattell, and measures the 16 primary traits, and the Big Five secondary traits. The sixteen primary traits are:

Warmth (A)

Reasoning (B)

Emotional Stability (C)

Dominance (E)

Liveliness (F)

Rule-Consciousness (G)

Social Boldness (H)

Sensitivity (I)

Vigilance (L)

Abstractedness (M)

Privateness (N)

Apprehension (O)

Openness to Change (Q1)

Self-Reliance (Q2)

Perfectionism (Q3)

Tension (Q4)

The five Big Traits are Extraversion-Introversion, Receptivity, Tough-mindedness, Self-Controlled, and Unrestrained. The 16 PF also has four parallel tests: the High School Personality Questionnaire (HSPQ), the Childrens Personality Questionnaire, the Early School Personality Questionnaire, and the Pre-School Personality Questionnaire.

The 16PF was used by Bell & Cresswell (1984) to examine, among other things, the differences in personality between instrumentalists and their non-musical peers. …

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