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Seeking Others’ Sounds: Predictors of Voluntary Exposure to Outgroup Music

Gim, Hyeonchang; Gahler, Heather; Harwood, Jake; Paolini, Stefania


Hyeonchang Gim

Heather Gahler

Jake Harwood


Intergroup contact research demonstrates that contact with outgroups (including mediated contact) improves attitudes about those groups. However, people often avoid such contact, including avoiding outgroup media messages. In two studies, we investigated voluntary exposure to outgroup media. Our research builds on intergroup contact theory and the reactive approach model. The latter suggests (counterintuitively) that, sometimes, anxiety can motivate people to engage with the unfamiliar. Both studies measured potential predictors of voluntary contact, provided musical options for respondents, and measured which options people chose as well as their engagement with and enjoyment of those choices. Study 1 provided a simple choice between two musical options (ingroup versus outgroup); Study 2 used a more extensive array of ingroup and outgroup options, including ingroup-outgroup collaborative music. Findings suggest a limited role of personality traits in determining seeking outgroup media, but a more powerful role for diversity-related attitudes and past exposure to outgroup media. Some evidence supported reactive approach models (e.g., self-expansion motives drove time spent listening to outgroup media in Study 1, but only for people who reported high levels of intergroup anxiety). Encountering members of other social groups (e.g., a different race or religion) is called intergroup contact (Allport, 1954). Such contact can occur in direct face-to-face encounters, or indirectlyia, for instance, media portrayals (Vezzali et al., 2014). Intergroup contact has salutary effects on intergroup attitudes: assuming the contact is not negative, it typically results in reduced prejudice (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). Experimental exposure to positive outgroup media portrayals has positive effects on dominant group members’ perceptions of outgroups (Joyce & Harwood, 2014; Mazziotta et al., 2011). However, people’s media consumption is selective (Knobloch-Westerwick, 2014). They often selectively expose themselves to ingroup and avoid outgroup portrayals (Harwood, 1999; Knobloch‐Westerwick & Hastall, 2010). The selective exposure self and affect management (SESAM) model has explored this idea, with work demonstrating preferences for messages supporting preexisting attitudes and featuring personally salient topics (Knobloch-Westerwick, 2015). A valid criticism of many mediated contact studies is that they use manipulated (i.e., non-voluntary) exposure to media and thus do not represent “real world” intergroup media exposure. This discontinuity between a key paradigm in mediated contact studies and real-world media use leads to our key question. What predicts voluntary exposure to outgroup media? We examine this question by looking at people’s voluntary music-listening choices.


Gim, H., Gahler, H., Harwood, J., & Paolini, S. (2023). Seeking Others’ Sounds: Predictors of Voluntary Exposure to Outgroup Music. Media Psychology, 26(1), 54-71.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 20, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 4, 2022
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Oct 6, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2024
Journal Media Psychology
Print ISSN 1521-3269
Electronic ISSN 1532-785X
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 54-71