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Joseph T. Sass, L. Mickey Fenzel, Ph.D., Ralph L. Piedmont, Ph.D.

Examining the Relationship between Spirituality, Personality, and Emotion: A Mediation Model through Music Preference

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Research has indicated that the type of music an individual chooses to listen to is often closely associated with the individual’s personality and emotional state. However, it is not clear whether personality or emotional state contribute to the kind of music individuals select or whether listening to certain kinds of music affects emotional states. Furthermore, research does not address the role that spirituality may play in musical preferences.  In this study, I seek to explore further the role of music in people’s lives by examining the role that music plays in mediating the relation of both personality factors and levels of personal spirituality to emotional functioning.

This study consisted of 520 participants, from colleges on the East Coast and Midwest with ages ranging from 18 to 24 (78% female) with a median age of 18.9. Within that population, 72% of the participants reported that God is important in their lives, and 60% of the participants reported that religion is important in their lives. This study used the Assessment of Spirituality and Religious Sentiment Scale to determine spirituality, the Dispositional Positive Emotion Scale, the Big Five Aspect Scale to determine personality, and a 17-item scale to determine music preference. The data was cleaned and checked for measure reliability. The collected data was standardized, and regression and correlation analyses were used to test the mediation hypothesis.

Preliminary correlation analyses found significant correlations between the predictors of the five personality domains, spirituality, and preference for modern/contemporary music and the dependent variable, emotion. Also found were significant correlations between spirituality and preference for religious music, extraversion and preference for modern contemporary/modern music, and openness with preference for niche music genres. The dependent variable, emotion, was significantly correlated with preference for modern/contemporary music genres. With respect to the primary hypotheses, however, further regression analysis showed that music did not mediate the relationship between personality and emotion.

Overall, the results show certain personality types and spiritual individuals have preferences towards specific types of music. Research has found ties between positive emotion and improved health. Pressman (2012) discovered immune enhancing benefits to positive emotions. Future research could examine the connection between spirituality, personality, music, and emotions to predict emotional functioning. This would provide researchers and practitioners information about how to encourage positive emotion that would improve overall well-being. Implications of these findings for future research and clinical practice were discussed. Results were examined with respect to future studies.

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