Although research on film preferences and movie-watching motives is rare, a great deal of researchers have shown, over the last decades, an interest in people’s music preferences as an individual difference variable that relates to personality traits (Cattell & Anderson, 1953; Dollinger, 1993; Little & Zuckerman, 1986; McCown, Keiser, Mulhearn, & Williamson, 1997; Robinson, Weaver, & Zillmann, 1996). For instance, some support has been found for the notion that people prefer listening to music that reflects specific personality characteristics (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003; Schwartz & Fouts, 2003). For instance, preferences for ‘‘reflective and complex’’ music (defined by classical, jazz, blues, and folk genres) are positively associated with openness to experience, verbal ability, and liberal political orientation and negatively related to social dominance; preferences for ‘‘upbeat and conventional’’ music (defined by pop, country, Christian, and film genres) are positively related to extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and political conservatism and negatively related to verbal ability (e.g., Delsing, ter Bogt, Engels, & Meeus, 2008; Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003; Rentfrow & McDonald, 2009).
Cattell was among the first to theorize about how music could contribute to understanding personality. He believed that preferences for certain types of music reveal important information about unconscious aspects of personality that is overlooked by most personality inventories (Cattell & Anderson, 1953a, 1953b; Cattell & Saunders, 1954; Kemp, 1996). Accordingly, Cattell and Anderson (1953a) created the I.P.A.T. Music Preference Test, a personality inventory comprising 120 classical and jazz music passage in which respondents indicate how much they like each musical item. Using factor analysis, Cattell and Saunders (1954) identified 12 musicpreference factors and interpreted each one as an unconscious reflection of specific personality characteristics (e.g., surgency, warmth, conservatism). Whereas Cattell believed that music preferences provide a window into the unconscious, most researchers have regarded music preferences as a manifestation of more explicit personality traits. For example, sensation seeking appears to be positively related to preferences for rock, heavy metal, and punk music and negatively related to preferences for sound tracks and religious music (Little & Zuckerman, 1986). In addition, Extraversion and Psychoticism have been shown to predict preferences for music with exaggerated bass, such as rap and dance music (McCown et al., 1997).
The uses and gratification approach (Rosengren, Wenner, & Palmgreen, 1985) has served as a general theoretical framework for explaining associations between personality factors and music preferences. This approach has focused on the motives for individuals’ music consumption and stresses individual choice and how ‘people intentionally participate and select media messages from communication alternatives. . . what people do with the media, instead of what the media do to people’ (Rubin, 1994, p 421). From this line of research, it has been shown that people prefer particular kinds of music because they have particular personality characteristics that the music satisfies (Arnett, 1995; Arnett, Larson, & Offer, 995; Gantz, Gartenberg, Pearson, & Schiller, 1978; Larson, 1995). For example extraverts, who generally enjoy socialising and like spending time with others, tend to enjoy music that facilitates social interactions with peers (e.g. party music). Similarly, individuals high on Openness to Experience, who have a desire for ‘variety, intellectual stimulation and aesthetic experiences’ (Costa & McCrae, 1988, p 261), may prefer relatively ‘difficult’ or obscure types of music. The music people choose may also serve to gratify physiologically based needs. According to the model of optimal stimulation (Eysenck, 1990; Zuckerman, 1979), people tend to choose the type of music that moves them toward their optimal arousal level. For example extraverts are considered to be on the low level of the cortical arousal scale and tend to choose the types of music which have the property to raise that level. Introverts, however, who are normally highly aroused, tend to avoid overstimulation by choosing less stimulating music (Daoussis & McKelvie, 1986).
Although adolescents generally share a fascination for music, adolescents differ in their preferences for musical styles. Social factors such as ethnicity, social class (e.g. Frith, 1981; Gans, 1974), youth cultures, as well as individual factors (e.g. personality, physiological arousal, social identity) have been implied to account for the
heterogeneity of adolescents’ music preferences (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003; Zillman & Gan, 1997). One line of research has focused on the role of personality traits in the determination of adolescents’ musical taste (e.g. Dollinger, 1993; Little & Zuckerman, 1986; McCown et al., 1997; Pearson & Dollinger, 2002; Robinson et al., 1996). One of the most comprehensive studies to date in this respect is Rentfrow and Gosling’s (2003) investigation, in which the authors first determined the major dimensions of music preferences by means of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and subsequently examined the associations of these dimensions with the wellestablished Big-Five personality factors. Four music-preference dimensions that were highly consistent across samples and time emerged from their analyses: The Reflective and Complex dimension, which was defined by the genres blues, jazz, classical and folk music; The Intense and Rebellious dimension, which was defined by Rock, alternative and heavy metal music; The Upbeat and Conventional dimension, which was defined by country, sound track, religious and pop music; The Energetic and Rhythmic dimension, which was defined by rap/hip-hop, soul/funk and electronical/dance music.
Rentfrow and Gosling (2003) found both the Reflective and Complex and the Intense and Rebellious dimensions to be positively related to Openness to Experience. The Upbeat and Conventional dimension was found to be positively related to Extraversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, and negatively to Openness to Experience. The Energetic and Rhythmic dimension was positively related to Extraversion and Agreeableness. No substantial correlations were found between the music-preference dimensions and Emotional Stability.
In an attempt to extend on the works of Rentfrow Gosling (2003), Desling et al (2008) carried out an investigation examining the structure of Dutch adolescents’ music preferences, the stability of music preferences and the relations between Big Five personality traits and (changes in) music preferences. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses of music-preference data from adolescents aged between 12-19 revealed four clearly interpretable music-preferences and personality at three follow-up measurements, In addition to being relatively stable over 1, 2 and 3-year intervals, music preferences were found to be consistently related to personality characteristics, confirming prior research in the United States. Furthermore, personality characteristics were also found to predict changes in music preferences over a 3-year interval.
In addition to music preferences, TV preferences, book reading and outdoor cultural participation have been investigated. Being more of one’s own choice than e.g. vocational interests, reading interests are likely to reflect a person’s psychological needs rather than structural socio-economic constraints (Tirre & Dixit, 1995). For similar reasons, personality can also be expected to affect outdoor cultural behaviour (e.g. visiting museums, attending concerts). Such behaviour may be considered as unmediated participation in culture, where individuals will be looking for specific uses and gratifications as well. According to information processing theory (e.g. Berlyne, 1971; Ganzeboom, 1982; Kraaykamp & Dijkstra, 1999), the satisfaction people derive from reading books, visiting museums, or attending concerts, depends on their optimal, or preferred, arousal levels. Such cultural products differ in their complexity. The level of complexity one prefers is thought to be affected by an individual’s information processing capacity or extraversion (Ganzeboom, 1982). But it is not only directly linked to our cognitive or affective orientations toward the mass media, as it can also reflect individuals’ preferences for and responses to physiological stimulation (Zuckerman, 1991). Personality is therefore relevant for understanding individuals appreciation of the arts.