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The Effects of Musical Priming on NEO-PI-R Scores

Faculty Supervisor:
Paul Lewis
Year of Project Completion:
Jerel Fast


It is important for personality inventories to be accurate, for they assist clinicians, school counselors, researchers and many other professionals in making decisions concerning patients, students and research. Reviewed literature suggests, though, that the validity of an inventory might be tainted by what a person does before they take it. The present study examined the effects of musical priming on a personality inventory’s scores. Gathering students from various classes at Bethel College, 46 participants listened to either a loud, unnerving song by Osvaldo Golijov, a soft, relaxing song by Sergei Rachmaninoff or silence. Each participant then filled out the NEO-PI-R. The results indicated a significant effect on Extraversion scores between the Golijov and silence groups and on Neuroticism and Extraversion scores from the interaction between all of the condition groups and gender. The results indicate that the type of music inventory-takers listen to prior to filling out an inventory can significantly color a number of their factor scores. These scores, then, must be examined more closely and possibly adjusted according to this study and related research. More generally, professionals who use the NEO-PI-R, and potentially other inventories, need to take into account myriad priming factors when administering and analyzing them so they can make better assessments of, and more informed decisions about, the inventory-takers.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.