Character Strengths Profiles of Musicians and Non-Musicians


  • Angelika Güsewell Research Department, Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne
  • Willibald Ruch Section on Personality and Assessment, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich



Personality of musicians, stereotypes, positive psychology, character strengths, sensitivity to beauty and goodness


In the 1980s and 1990s a series of studies investigated musicians’ personalities using Cattell’s 16 personality factors, Eysenck’s PEN super factors, and Costa and McCrae’s Big Five. The findings hinted at some traits most musicians seemed to share, and highlighted differences between the personality traits of brass and string players. However, results were inconclusive and sometimes contradictory. The main aim of this study was to further investigate the topic using novel theoretical frameworks: Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) VIA classification, and Güsewell and Ruch’s (2012) responsiveness to the beautiful and good model. The character strengths and responsiveness to the beautiful and good profiles of classical and non-classical (i.e. jazz, rock, and pop) professional musicians, amateur musicians, and non-musicians were compared. In total, 324 participants equally distributed among these three subgroups completed the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Peterson, Park, & Seligman, 2005), the Engagement with Beauty Scale (EBS; Diessner, Solom, Frost, Parsons, & Davidson, 2008), and the Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence Test (ABET; Güsewell & Ruch, 2012). Professional musicians scored significantly higher than non-musicians on self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, and responsiveness to artistic beauty; they scored significantly lower than amateurs on judgement and perspective, and lower than both amateurs and non-musicians on teamwork, fairness, and leadership. Professional classical musicians scored significantly higher than professional non-classical musicians on prudence. The latter, in turn, displayed significantly higher scores on creativity, bravery, and honesty. The two groups did not differ with respect to any of the responsiveness dimensions.


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