Listening to podcasts could speak volumes about your personality


People who have ever listened to a podcast tend to score higher than others in the areas of openness to experience, interest-based curiosity, and need for cognition. — AFP Relaxnews

More and more listeners are incorporating podcasts into their daily lives. And this habit could say a lot about who they are, according to a new study. Scientists found that fans of the format are, on average, more curious than others.

To come to this conclusion, Stephanie Tobin and Rosanna Guadagno interviewed 306 people from around a dozen countries about their relationship with this form of entertainment. They then compared their listening habits with different personality traits, such as curiosity, openness to experience and the need to belong.

The researchers found that respondents who had ever listened to a podcast tended to score higher than others in the areas of openness to experience, interest-based curiosity, and need for cognition. Individuals with a high need for cognition tend to enjoy engaging in extensive reasoning processes: they systematically seek to make sense of the information they encounter. And this appears to be the case of podcast fans, according to the study findings, published in the journal, Plos One.

The scientists also found that podcast listeners were less likely to have high scores for neuroticism. This personality trait refers to the propensity of some people to experience negative emotions like anxiety. Podcast fans seem to be less prone to this.

According to Stephanie Tobin, co-author of the study and a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, this result is particularly surprising. “That’s quite different from social media use,” she told The Guardian. “There's a positive association between neuroticism and using social media.”

The ultimate format for an intimate listening experience

The podcast is often described as an intimate medium. It facilitates self-narration and personal exploration, while giving listeners a sense of a special connection with the host of their favorite show.

The researchers noted that participants who experienced this kind of connection had, on average, higher scores on agreeableness. In other words, feeling close to a podcaster indicates a certain ease in feeling caring towards others.

Researchers at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, UCLA and UC Berkeley have also looked at the sense of closeness and intimacy that some listeners may experience with the voice in their ears. They argue that wearing headphones or earbuds promotes a phenomenon called “in-head localization”.

Listeners feel that the speaker is in their head, and therefore feel close to them. As such, they feel more empathy towards them and tend to be more easily persuaded by what they say.

While Tobin and Guadagno’s study supports this trend, the researchers were surprised to find that the podcast fans they surveyed did not score highly on the need to belong. They expected the opposite to be true.

“People with a higher need to belong report more addictive social networking site tendencies. They also form stronger parasocial relationships with their favorite TV personalities. Podcasts offer informal and intimate conversation, which could be attractive to those with a high need to belong,” they wrote in the study.

However, the scientists note that while certain personality traits were associated with listening to podcasts, they were unable to formally establish causal links. – AFP Relaxnews

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