What It Means to Be (Un)Professional: The Presence of Nonaesthetic Bias Within Differing Levels of Music and Film Expertise

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We investigated the justifications given by nonexperts and experts for their appraisals of musicians and films. In Study 1, a sample of 125 participants were asked to justify positive and negative appraisals of liked and disliked musicians and films. Four narratives per person were gathered to track evidence of nonaesthetic biases. Results showed that approximately two fifths of coded statements were nonaesthetically biased, and the average participant response was about 50% biased. The most common biases found were personal idiosyncrasies and genre preferences. Those with higher interest in music and film tended to be less biased, especially in their appraisals of liked musicians and films. People were more biased toward musicians rather than films and more biased toward disliked, rather than liked, musicians and films. In Study 2, critics’ narratives from film and music books were found to contain approximately 13 times fewer biases than nonexperts from Study 1. Although still rare, the most common bias among experts were personal prejudices.

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