Charles Spearman was one of the pioneers of factor analysis, a statistical technique for looking at what correlates with what and then trying to name the smaller number of underlying factors that emerge. He used it to come up with the g Factor theory of intelligence way back in 1904. Factor analysis is an interesting combination of objective and subjective, because the final step of giving names to the most important underlying structures is a creative one.
Here's a study looking at the top five factors in entertainment tastes.
Peter J. Rentfrow, Lewis R. Goldberg, and Ran Zilca
The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at J Pers
People spend considerable amounts of time and money listening to music, watching TV and movies, and reading books and magazines, yet almost no attention in psychology has been devoted to understanding individual differences in preferences for such entertainment. The present research was designed to examine the structure and correlates of entertainment genre preferences. Analyses of the genre preferences of over 3,000 individuals revealed a remarkably clear factor structure. Using multiple samples, methods, and geographic regions, data converged to reveal five entertainment-preference dimensions: Communal, Aesthetic, Dark, Thrilling, and Cerebral. Preferences for these entertainment dimensions were uniquely related to demographics and personality traits. Results also indicated that personality accounted for significant proportions of variance in entertainment preferences over and above demographics. The results provide a foundation for developing and testing hypotheses about the psychology of entertainment preferences.
Staffan's Personality Blog summarizes:
Next, they did their statistical mojo in which correlations between all the 108 genres were compared to see if they clustered into any separate factors, which they did. The major divide was found between what the researchers, surprisingly politically incorrect called Highbrow and Lowbrow. Furthermore Highbrow turned out to consist of two separate factors, named Aesthetic and Cerebral where as Lowbrow was made up of three factors called Communal, Dark and Thrilling for a total of five factors – two fancy and three folksy. To get a general idea of what these factors look like here are some of the major items in each of them,
Aesthetic – classical music, arts and humanities TV shows, art books, opera music, foreign film, classic films, folk music, world music, philosophy books
Cerebral – business books, news and current events TV shows and books, educational TV shows, reference books, computer books, documentary films, science TV shows
Communal – romance films, romance books, daytime talk shows, made-for- TV movies, soap operas, reality shows, pop music
Dark – horror movies, heavy metal music, rap and hip hop, alternative music, erotic movies, erotic literature, cult movies
Thrilling – action movies, thriller and espionage books, spy shows, science fiction TV shows, films and books, suspense movies, war movies
The name "communal" was chosen to distinguish it from the other two lowbrow factors, which cluster together to form a "rebellious" grouping. "Communal" could probably better be entitled "Relationship" entertainment aimed at women who are most interested in personal relationships.
The Cerebral factor might better be named "Informative." It sounds a lot like entertainment for what I call Frequent Flyers: people with management and technical jobs who travel a lot on business and like information. James Michener rather than John Updike. (My favorite Updike novel is The Coup, which imparts a Michener-worthy load of information about Africa in Updike's deliriously aesthetic style.) Airport bookstores and newsstands cater to their interests. Humorist Dave Barry, who is from Armonk, NY, home of IBM, is the poet laureate of Frequent Flyers.
It would be interesting to drill down further within this group to see if the nerds and managers can be distinguished. Adding sports would help. Management types tend to like to play team sports and watch spectator sports. Nerds are less interested in watching sports and are more interested in less structured outdoor activities, such as, say, kayaking.