Theses Doctoral

Stereotypes of U.S. College Music Majors: An Exploratory Study with Q methodology

Yoon, Clara

Literature on stereotypes and implications of stereotype threat has grown considerably over the past decade. While numerous studies examine college major biases, they predominantly focus on STEM and business students. For Music Majors (MMs), some of the conventional musician stereotypes include susceptibility to heavy drinking, drug use, and their nonpecuniary advantages as artists. In this study, Q methodology, which incorporates a combination of quantitative and qualitative properties, was used to identify Non-Music Majors’ (NMMs) shared subjectivity among their opinions of MMs.

The primary research questions were as follows:

(a) What current stereotypes do Non-Music Majors hold regarding the Music Majors?
(b) Which themes emerge based on Non-Music Majors’ detailed descriptions of Music Majors?

The researcher additionally sought to explore the impetus behind dominant musician stereotypes, including their portrayals as perpetual starving artists, overly emotional, prone to heavy drinking and drug use, and financially irresponsible. The study had two main objectives: (a) to identify NMMs’ current stereotypes of MMs; and (b) to explore ways in which NMMs and MMs can implement a more close-knit alliance and cross-disciplinary partnerships and collaborations in college settings.

The study was conducted in Spring 2023 with 30 NMMs from a large U.S. graduate school of education. The participants comprised only graduate-level students who had formally declared one primary major and participated remotely using an online Q Method Software. The study findings, which utilized Q analyses, thematic analyses of post-Q-sort surveys and interviews, provided a nuanced yet wide-ranging validation of the cross-disciplinary biases in college settings. The research revealed that NMMs viewed MMs as being born with innate talent/gift, who were eclectic, disciplined, and coming from high-income backgrounds. NMMs also perceived MMs as being perfectionists with many hobbies outside of music, who were endlessly curious but more prone to recreational drug use compared to NMMs. All participants shared that musician stereotypes, whether positive or negative, were pervasive in college settings.

Stereotypes are universal: however, discussions of lesser-known stereotypes, such as college major biases, are seldom considered. Q methodology, in this respect, facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the diverse perspectives within a social group. When combined with post-Q-sort surveys and interviews, Q can be a powerful tool to help elucidate subjective perspectives—for educators and students alike—in dynamic and evolving educational contexts. The researcher hopes this study will encourage others to explore, analyze, and optimize the use of Q in the field of music and music education.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Parkes, Kelly
Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023