How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
People have a wide range of preferences for many things in their lives, including how they consume entertainment. Rentfrow et al (2010) got nearly 2000 people to complete a questionnaire that helped them identify five dimensions of media consumption: Communal, Aesthetic, Dark, Thrilling and Cerebral. Below are discussions about each of these.
Communal consumers like to feel connected with other people and enjoy shows about people and relationships. They may well watch soap operas, reality programs and chat shows on TV and enjoy romantic movies. They really like social media and are likely to post more than others.
In personality, communal people tended more towards being tender, warm, understanding, moral, empathetic and generally agreeable and conscientious. They are less concerned with intellectual matters and may have lower emotional stability.
To build entertainment for communal consumers emphasize the human side. Use photographs of people living and working together. Make the entertainment light and untaxing. In the research, women scored higher in this topic, so if women are your target audience then communal styling may be a good idea.
Aesthetic consumers are stimulated more by beauty and other forms of sensory and intellectual arousal. They prefer more creative and abstract art, poetry, music and more, often in 'highbrow' versions such as classic literature, opera and international movies.
People who prefer classic and highbrow art may be status conscious and use these preferences to meet and socialize with intellectuals or others of higher social position. In personality, they are more reflective, creative and warm, although they may also be demanding.
To attract the aesthetic consumer, pay attention to design, using classic and innovative principles to make stimulate your customers and appeal to their sense of of the elite. Emphasize uniqueness and classic timeliness, balancing the 'leading 'edge' idea with long-established principles.
In the psychology of individuals, some aspects are known as 'dark', as opposed to a the more social and open 'light' elements. Darkness includes a focus on the self and negative emotions such as fear and anger, and may be somewhat obsessive about death, a topic that many other people studiously avoid.
People with a dark preference seek an intensity of arousal through these subjects which others avoid. They may enjoy horror movies, heavy metal music and even be engaged by erotica. Men and younger people tended to score more highly on darker preferences in the research. They tended to lower conscientiousness and agreeableness although they were more extraverted and may well have an intellectual position.
To attract people with dark preferences, use a lot of black and dark shades in images. Create edgy media that others might well dislike. While giving focus to negative emotions, work to sustain the morbid fascination and dark attractiveness rather than just making it unpleasant.
A common way of creating arousal is by taking risks. A problem with this is that it can put us into danger and cause accidents, so we get around this by seeking vicarious pleasure through watching others take risks instead.
People who have a preference for thrilling entertainment may choose to watch sports and games on TV as well as enjoying 'thriller' and 'action' movies. As they identify with their heroes, they are able to project themselves into the heroic position and feel the thrills as if they were in the action themselves. In the research, people who had 'thrill' preferences did not have any outstanding personality factors.
To appeal to people who enjoy these thrills, emphasize both the thrilling aspects of what you have to offer as well as confirming that there is also a safety net, for example with warranties and money-back guarantees.
Another way of gaining arousal is through intellectual stimulation. Entertainment does this by making people think and helping them make sense of the world around them.
Cerebral people enjoy 'highbrow' TV such as documentaries, investigations and science programs that further their knowledge and provides source material for intellectual conversation. They rend to be creative, intellectual and extraverted although they may be less agreeable.
To appeal to cerebral people, provide intellectual argument, facts and data. Pose questions and challenge them. Teach them useful knowledge and skills. Give them material they can use in further discussions and arguments.
We use entertainment to satisfy our need for arousal. Arousal may sought via physical, emotional or intellectual stimulation and can appear in a wide number of ways.
In the research, a long list of types of TV show, book, movie and music were tested against the five categories, and both positive and negative correlation was identified. For example religious music correlated fairly well with the communal preference but had a negative correlation with the dark preference. A clear division between highbrow (aesthetic and cerebral) and lowbrow (communal, dark and thrilling) preferences was identified.
As with other preference dimensions, while many people may clearly tend more towards one preference, everyone will have a variable level of preference for each scale and some may even have fairly equal preferences across several or all areas. This may also vary with the mood of the person involved as they seek entertainment from one of these categories to match how they feel at the moment.
Take these categories into account when you are designing entertainment, whether as a purely hedonistic escape or with a more deliberate intent to persuade and influence through the use of arousal. First understand your target market in terms of which categories are preferred (or not). Then design programs and content to have the optimal effect.
Rentfrow, P.J., Goldberg, L.R. and Zilca, R. (2011). Listening, Watching, and Reading: The Structure and Correlates of Entertainment Preferences. Journal of Personality, 79, 2, 223-257
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