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Peter Jason Rentfrow

Peter Jason Rentfrow

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Broadly speaking, my research program examines the links between basic personality traits and common social psychological processes. To understand such links, I adopt an interactionist perspective that focuses on person-environment interactions and social perception. In this work, I have examined how personality is expressed in a variety of domains (e.g., music preferences, geographic regions), and how impressions of others are formed on the basis of such information.

From a theoretical perspective, I am concerned with developing an ecologically sensitive depiction of social behavior. For example, everyday people engage in a variety of activities—they listen to music, watch television, go to the cinema, tend to their gardens, and talk to one another about politics and current events, to name just a few. Yet, the psychological functions these activities serve remain unclear. What motivates people to engage in such activities? Why are the activities that are loved by some loathed by others? What can we learn about people from their preferences? Interactionist theories emphasize links between the person and the environment and suggest that people select social and physical environments that match and reinforce their dispositions and self-views (e.g., Swann, Rentfrow, & Guinn, 2002). Research on social perception indicates that observers use the information available in the physical environment to form impressions of others (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002). Thus, to understand why people engage in particular activities and how such information is used in social perception, my research builds on this previous work by re-conceptualizing “environment” in a very broad sense. This reinterpretation enables me to examine person-environment interactions and social perception across a new range of everyday real-world phenomena, such as the music that people listen to, the movies they watch, the places in which they live, and their political ideology.

My general approach to understanding these issues is characterized by several recurrent themes. Specifically, to ensure that the phenomena are robust, I seek convergence across a variety of research designs (e.g., descriptive, correlational, experimental), measures (e.g., behavioral codings, physiological responses, ratings), levels of analysis (e.g., individual, dyadic, national), and sources of data (e.g., self, observational, archival).

Primary Interests:

  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Internet and Virtual Psychology
  • Personality, Individual Differences
  • Political Psychology
  • Research Methods, Assessment
  • Sociology, Social Networks

Research Group or Laboratory:

Online Studies:

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Journal Articles:

  • Bonneville-Roussy, A., Rentfrow, P. J., Xu, M. K., & Potter, J. (2013). Music through the ages: Trends in musical attitudes and preferences from adolescence through middle adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 703-717.
  • Gosling, S. D., Rentfrow, P. J., & Swann, W. B. Jr. (2003). A very brief measure of the big-five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504-528.
  • Nauman, L. P., Vazire, S. Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2009). Personality judgments based on physical appearance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1661-1671.
  • Rentfrow, P. J. (2012). The role of music in everyday life: Current directions in the social psychology of music. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6/5, 402-416.
  • Rentfrow, P. J. (2010). Statewide differences in personality: Toward a psychological geography of the United States. American Psychologist, 65, 548-558.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., Goldberg, L. R., & Levitin, D.J. (in press). The Structure of Musical Preferences: A Five-Factor Model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., Goldberg, L. R., & Zilca, R. (in press). Listening, watching, and reading: The structure and correlates of entertainment preferences. Journal of Personality.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2007). The content and validity of stereotypes about fans of 14 music genres. Psychology of Music, 35, 306-326.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2006). Message in a ballad: The role of music preferences in interpersonal perception. Psychological Science, 17, 236-242.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2003). The do-re-mi’s of everyday life: The structure and personality correlates of music preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1236-1256.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D. & Potter, J. (2008). A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Personality Traits. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 339-369.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D., Stillwell, D. J., Kosinski, M., & Potter, J. (in press). Divided we stand: Three psychological regions of the United States and their political, economic, social, and health correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Rentfrow, P. J., Mellander, C., & Florida, R. (2009). Happy States of America: A state-level analysis of psychological, economic, and social well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 1073-1082.

Other Publications:

  • Rachuri, K. K., Musolesi, M., Mascolo, C., Rentfrow, P. J., Longworth, C., & Aucinas, A. (2010). EmotionSense: A Mobile Phones based Adaptive Platform for Experimental Social Psychology Research. In Proceedings of 12th ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp'10). Copenhagen, Denmark. September 2010.
  • Rentfrow, P.J., Jost, J.T., Gosling, S.D., & Potter, J. (2009). Statewide differences in personality predict voting patterns in 1996–2004 U.S. Presidential Elections. In J.T. Jost, A.C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and psychological bases of ideology and system justification (pp. 314-347). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
  • Rentfrow, P. J. & McDonald, J. A. (2009). Music preferences and personality. In P. N. Juslin and J. Sloboda (Eds.) Handbook of Music and Emotion (pp. 669-695). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Courses Taught:

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Psychology of Music

Peter Jason Rentfrow
Department of Psychology
University of Cambridge
Downing Site
Cambridge CB2 3EB
United Kingdom

  • Phone: +44 1223 767805
  • Fax: +44 1223 334550

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