Podcast listeners may be more open-minded

Are you a big podcast listener? A new study suggests that you may be more open-minded and intellectually curious than people who don’t listen to podcasts.

Podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a reported 75.9 million podcast listeners in the US and 15.61 million in the UK as of 2020. Yet comparatively little research exists on how and why people listen to this type of on-demand audio content.

“I mainly study social media use, but am an avid podcast listener,” explains Stephanie Tobin, a senior lecturer in psychology at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and first author on the new study.

Tobin’s own favourite podcasts include Two Psychologists Four Beers, Very Bad Wizards, Chat 10 Looks 3, and My Favorite Murder.

“I was interested in applying the same methods we use to understand why people use social media to understand why people listen to podcasts,” she says.

Together with co-author Rosanna Guadagno of Stanford University in the United States, Tobin surveyed a sample of around 300 people from several different countries about their podcast listening habits. The participants also completed the Big Five Inventory, a validated questionnaire designed to measure key personality traits.

“We found that people who were more open to experience, more curious, and who enjoyed thinking more were more likely to have listened to a podcast,” Tobin says.

This fits with earlier research showing that these traits are associated with use of new technologies and using online platforms to find information.

On the other hand, participants who scored higher on their need to belong were less likely to be podcast listeners. This was surprising to Tobin, who had expected the opposite relationship.

Nevertheless, podcast listeners who spent more hours per week listening were more socially engaged with the podcasts they listened to, and experienced stronger parasocial (one-sided) relationships with podcast hosts.

“I’d be interested to follow up on the social aspects, perhaps by looking at the online communities that form around specific podcasts,” says Tobin.

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