Wednesday, 8 September 2010

From Dark to Cerebral, what kind of media consumer are you?

By analysing the preferences of over 3,000 participants across 108 genres of music, film, books and TV, a research team led by Peter Rentfrow has established there are five dimensions of media consumption: Communal, Aesthetic, Dark, Thrilling and Cerebral.

A key finding was that the trends in people's genre preferences tend to span different media formats: books, music, film, TV etc. Those who score highly on the Consumer dimension tend to enjoy media that involve people and relationships, including: daytime chat shows, romantic films, pop music, and cook books. High scorers on the Aesthetic dimension enjoy creative, abstract material, including: poetry, opera, and foreign films. The Dark dimension relates to intense, edgy, hedonistic material, including: heavy metal, horror films and erotica. The Thrilling Dimension is made up of adventure and fantasy material such as thrillers and sci fi. Finally, high scorers on the Cerebral dimension enjoy documentaries, news and current affairs.

Participants' scores on the five dimensions varied according to their demographics and personalities. So, for example, women tended to score higher on the Communal dimension whereas men and younger people tended to score higher on the Dark dimension. People with more conscientious personalities tended to score highly on the Cerebral dimension whereas those with less conscientious personalities scored more highly on the Dark dimension.

The results of the study are based on three separate participant samples: nearly two thousand undergrads at the University of Texas (average age 19); over seven hundred Oregon residents who were part of a larger community study (average age 60); and just over 500 participants recruited via the Internet (average age 34).

Rentfrow and his colleagues said theirs was one of the first ever attempts to investigate how people vary in the taste for entertainment - a surprise, they noted, given that the typical American spends approximately 55 per cent of his or her waking life consuming entertainment media.

This is a first step into a relatively new research field and so inevitably the study has shortcomings. These include a reliance on self-report, which may be biased by participants attempting to give socially desirable answers, and a US-centric, predominantly Caucasian, middle-class sample.

These limitations notwithstanding, the researchers said the notion that there are identifiable dimensions of media consumption raises interesting avenues for future research. For example, regarding the ongoing debate about media effects on people's behaviour, what difference does it make to these effects whether a person usually seeks out the genre under scrutiny, such as violent films? In relation to personal relationships, what difference does it make how much people's media consumption profiles overlap?

'Overall' the researchers concluded, 'the findings provide a solid foundation on which to develop and test hypotheses about the causes and consequences of entertainment preferences.'

ResearchBlogging.orgRentfrow PJ, Goldberg LR, & Zilca R (2010). Listening, Watching, and Reading: The Structure and Correlates of Entertainment Preferences. Journal of personality PMID: 20649744

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Anonymous said...

There is an entire sub-discipline of Communication devoted to entertainment preferences and the types of personalities that prefer different media. Multiple articles about entertainment and the types of people who prefer which media (including empirical and theoretical articles) have been published, some as early as the 1940s. Although this research seems solid, it is certainly not a "first step in a new field."

Anonymous said...

The literature review for this paper is horrendous. Of course no articles are published in Psychology journals. They are published in media journals, devoted to this topic. Please do background research in an area before conducting a large survey on things that have already been done.

Anonymous said...

To the prior comment's point, this type of over-generalization is used throughout media theory discourse.

Not only is this survey an extreme simplification, but it implies a moral bias by the surveyors. Can opera/poetry not be both aesthetic and cerebral? Is erotica simply dark and not aesthetic?

This survey is irrelevant as are the classification methods. said...

I am not sure why the three commenteers keep themselves anonymous -
my name is Mallory Wober and I am not anonymous - I do agree though with points made by the first two. My own studies carried out at the Independent Broadcasting Authority from 1973 - 1992 include quite a few which explore what "kinds of people" (yes, using abbreviated personality measures) watch (and listen to via radio or other means) what "kinds of visual or auditory - or both - material". The results I/we found predate this paper by some 20-30 years, and resemble what it appears to have corroborated. Of course, viz third commentor, there is overlap in people's "consumption" of different genres. Some of my results were published in books and some in psychology - as well as in "communications"journals.
Ah well.
Is there scope for a study on why academic authors operate on short memory-spans? I was probably 'guilty' of that in my time -
by the way, the Open Library appears to have got hold of a copy of
Teens And Taste In Music and Radio (1984)
which certainly presages the current study, and is by - guess who - me!
63 other items by me are also in the Open Library (I've no idea who or what they are or where, or how they got hold of my stuff- but there you go!)

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