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Listening to podcasts might help satisfy our psychological need for social connection, new study finds

People who listen to more podcasts report a greater presence of meaning in life and those who form parasocial relationships with hosts report a greater sense of relatedness.

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Podcasts have risen in popularity in recent years, with the estimated number of podcast listeners rising from 46.1 to 75.9 million in the US alone and from 8.99 to 15.61 million in the UK from 2017–2020.

Research has revealed that entertainment media can directly or vicariously satisfy basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

The current study led by Stephanie J. Tobin, and Rosanna E. Guadagno, aimed to identify dispositional predictors of podcast listening and examine the associations between aspects of podcast listening, dispositional predictors, and psychological outcomes.

To do so, they recruited 306 participants that included both those who had and had not listened to podcasts (132 of them were podcast listeners). All participants completed a questionnaire, and those who indicated that they had ever listened to a podcast completed additional questions about their podcast use.

The final sample consisted of 157 males, 146 females, and 3 other gender participants. Ages ranged from 18–64. Participants were from a variety of countries including the UK (22%), USA (14%), Portugal (14%), Poland (10%), Canada (8%), Mexico (6%), Greece (6%), Spain (4%), Italy (3%), Australia (2%), and others.

Among the participants, 240 (78.43% of the sample) reported that they had listened to a podcast, while 66 had not. Of those who had listened to a podcast, 106 listened less than monthly, 32 listened monthly, 72 listened weekly, and 30 listened daily. The most frequently selected categories of podcasts were comedy (48%), games and hobbies (34%), society and culture (23%), music (23%), news and politics (23%), and education (21%).

On average, podcast listeners had been listening for 3 years, for 3.5 hours per week, and to 3 different podcasts per month.

As the authors of this research had predicted, they found that people who were higher in openness to experience, curious, and had a need for cognition were more likely to have listened to a podcast. In simple terms, this means that those who listen to podcasts have stronger informational needs.

To conclude, the paper suggests that people who have listened to a podcast have higher informational needs, lower belonging needs, and lower neuroticism – the trait disposition to experience negative affects, like anger, anxiety, self‐consciousness, irritability, emotional instability, and depression – than those who have not. The findings support the idea that podcasts can provide informational and social gratifications to listeners.

See the paper here or download the PDF →

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