Our entertainment preferences often have more to do with our personality type and psychological profile than other factors, such as age, cultural background, ethnicity, or level of education, according to new research led by Jason Rentfrow, Ph.D., at the University of Cambridge.
For the study, more than 3,000 people were asked to tell how much they liked, or disliked, each of 108 genres of literature, music, and film. The researchers drew on three very different samples of people — a group of university students, residents of Eugene-Springfield, Oregon; and an Internet survey sample.
It turns out that most people seek out one of the following five general types of content from their entertainment:
- Communal (centering around people and relationships)
- Aesthetic (creative, abstract and demanding)
- Dark (intense and edgy)
- Thrilling (filled with action, suspense and adventure)
- Cerebral (factual and information-orientated).
According to the researchers, these groups, or “entertainment preference factors,” serve as broad drivers of taste, which then lead people to seek out particular styles and sub-genres of books, magazines, films, television programs and music.
The research could have significant implications for the entertainment industry, as well as for the ongoing debate as to whether or not the media has a direct impact on people’s attitudes, emotions and behavior.
For example, critics have long argued that exposure to violent media, such as action movies or violent video games, increases aggressive thoughts, feelings and actions. However, this new study may suggest that a person’s personality is the larger influence in entertainment choices, and that violent media attracts people who are likely to take part in this type of behavior anyway.
For the study, participants were asked their age, gender, ethnicity and level of education. The personality of each respondent was also analyzed with a widely used system that categorizes personality through a set of broad characteristics: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and intellect/imagination.
Gender and level of education both had a strong influence on music, literature and film preferences, but the strongest correlation came from the personality test. For example, creative, introspective individuals chose “aesthetic” forms of entertainment. In contrast, straightforward, easy-going and relationship-orientated people leaned toward the “communal” styles of entertainment instead.
“Even though people’s taste for a style of music, or a particular type of TV show, will differ depending on things like age or gender, we found that their choices often spring from a desire to experience the same kind of thing,” said Rentfrow.
“When we clustered people’s entertainment preferences and compared their taste in music, literature, and film, we found that they are usually looking for a particular type of content, regardless of the genre through which it is conveyed. That would suggest that our entertainment preferences are more a function of substance, than style.”
Source: University of Cambridge