Date of Award

Fall 2009

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John D Mayer


In the Digital Age, it may be possible to assess personality in ways beyond those traditionally employed by psychologists. This work examines individual preferences in popular or mass culture media and what they say about people's psychological processes. For example, knowing that someone likes romantic comedy movies and jazz music arguably paints a more useful picture of personality than saying that one is high in both extraversion and openness. In such cases, a media-based self-description provides a clear and tangible metric of individual interests. Here, we hypothesize that one reason such preferences may reflect personality is because media and the arts make frequent use of prototypical or archetypal themes and characters in the stories they relate to their audiences, and that people resonate---i.e., respond affectively---to these thematic elements in specific ways that reflect their personalities.

Two studies were performed to test the general hypothesis that people's tastes in popular and mass culture media largely inform their overall personalities and behaviors. In Study 1, two similar scales measuring resonance to archetypal media were compared and a five-factor model of archetypes in mass media was validated. In Study, 2, resonant media preferences were evaluated and compared with participants' self-reported current concerns (including hobbies, group memberships, personal strivings, and possible selves) in order to identify possible archetypal life themes. Results supported the idea of archetypal life themes---that people's mass media preferences are related to their everyday behaviors, goals, social interests, and self-concept. In the future, pop culture-based indicators of personality such as media preferences may be used more often as assessment tools; more pragmatically, they may serve to guide individuals' overall personal development.