Interests Influence: Roy Discusses Personality and Instrument Choice
October 29, 2013   //   By:   //   Arts & Culture, Arts and Culture, Research and Academics

michael-royHave you ever thought about how your interests influence your personality? How your personality influences your interests? Dr. Michael Roy, associate professor of psychology at Elizabethtown College and an avid musician, asked those very questions when he began exploring the roles human personality and music play in respect to one another. Roy presents his research, “Personality and Instrument of Choice,” at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Bowers Writers House.

The reasons people listen to such different types and genres of music lie in the emotional and psychological differences between individuals, Roy explained during a recent interview. Many things are an influence — or are influenced by – personality, including musical tastes, differences in emotions that various songs inspire and the backgrounds of the listeners. The influence of all of these parameters can be positive or negative.

“That’s related both to why and what you listen to,” Roy said. Positive and negative influences also can be related to whether or not someone chooses to be a musician or if they are good at playing certain instruments.

We found that it made them more optimistic and motivated…”

The beginning of Roy’s interest in studying music and personality stems from a trip to African secondary schools where he set up music programs and measured the impact the new programs had on student attitudes toward education. “We found that it made them more optimistic and motivated,” the professor said. While in Africa, Roy participated in a number of other studies including a “this-then-that” correlation, which eventually inspired him to engage in further research on personality and musical life. The original study “examined the relationship between personality and what (type of) music people listened to and why they listened to it,” Roy said. His current research blossomed from there.

Being a versatile medium, perfect for studying phenomena as different as personality, musical taste and mental health,  “psychology can be applied to many things,” Roy said. In this case, the researcher applied his academic exploration to an area of interest he hadn’t yet pursued, which conveniently created an ideal chance for him to combine his professional work with his musical passion, and the research continues to offer students in the Department of Psychology an exciting hands-on incentive. Roy cited heavy involvement of former and current students as a reason his studies have been met with success.

Some of the studies include the personality’s involvement in songs getting stuck in one’s had or whether playing music can influence someone’s personality or outlook. His research paths offer multiple opportunities for further study by the professor, himself or his students.

The Bowers Writers House presentation shares data Roy collected from past studies with E-town students in various departments. The participants, he said, don’t always get a chance to share in the conclusions of their involvement so, “I was hoping to give them a chance to find out what happened.”

About the Author :

Emily Vasas is a 2015 graduate of Elizabethtown College.

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