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Just What Kind of People Like Nirvana?

On Tuesday, grunge fans everywhere marked the 17th anniversary of the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Cobain's suicide marked a tragic end to the almost-overnight success of Nirvana, widely credited as one of the most important bands in popularizing alternative rock in the early 1990s. Since their debut, Nirvana have sold over 50 million albums worldwide, confirming that the band is hardly a niche taste. Besides a love of flannel, though, do Nirvana lovers have anything else in common?

Yes, says a 2000 study in the European Journal of Personality. Doctors from the University of Melbourne, Autonomous University of Barcelona, and University College London studied two groups of English and Spanish students for "inter-correlations between music preference measures, painting preference, and personality," using a variety of music artists, including Mozart, Louie Armstrong, Sergio Mendes, and Boyz II Men. Though Spanish students were mostly unfamiliar with Nirvana, in the English sample the authors found that a liking of Nirvana correlated positively with a preference for "violent-realistic" paintings, such as Goya's The executions of the third of May, and less strong preference for "violent-abstract" paintings, like Edvard Munch's By the Deathbed. As for personality, the authors found that students that liked Nirvana generally scored higher on the "sensation-seeking scale," which measures a person's need for a high level of stimulation. In particular, Nirvana fans scored higher on the "experience seeking" and "disinhibition" subscores, suggesting that they are more likely to seek out new experiences and act impulsively. So cheer up, Nirvana fans: you're more fun.

For more research on what’s in the news, check out the rest of TNR’s newest blog, The Study.