The Relationship of Hobbies and Personality

Larry Z. Daily

Shepherd University

The author wishes to thank Mike Derrick, Jerry Doyle, Jim Eager, and Dave Sepos for permission to post solicitations to complete the survey to their Yahoo Groups. Their assistance was greatly appreciated. The author would also like to thank my Facebook friends who completed the survey and urged their friends to complete it as well. Finally, thanks to my colleague Anne Murtagh who shared the link to the survey with her classes.

The current study was designed to test a measure of personality as part of a larger project to explore the psychology of hobbies. A sample of 104 men and women completed the Interest and Preference Inventory online. The results suggest that the measure possesses adequate reliability and validity for research purposes.

Rozin (2006) noted that academic psychology has all but ignored five major areas of normal human behavior. These five areas are food, politics, religion, leisure-entertainment, and work. At a 2007 conference, Rozin noted that, within the realm of leisure-entertainment, nearly nothing is known about why humans engage in hobbies, or why each person chooses a particular activity as a hobby. According to a 2001 Harris Poll, Americans spend approximately 20 hours a week on leisure activities, including hobbies, and the 2002 RoperASW Worldwide Time Study reported that Americans spend 37% of their time on hobbies. Though some studies (e.g., Agahi & Parker, 2008; Roozen, Wiersema, Strietman, Feij, Lewinsohn, Meyers, Koks, & Vingerhoets, 2008) show that engaging in hobbies has mental health benefits, little else is known. The purpose of my research is to explore the psychology of hobbies.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.) defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” That definition is overly broad for research purposes, as nearly any activity could count as a hobby. Therefore, I have decided to focus — for now — on a particular class of activities that is represented in nearly every hobby shop (both brick-and-mortar and online) that I have surveyed: model building. Model building is an ancient activity (King, 1996; Lozier, 1967); prehistoric sites often contain dolls (model people) and toy animals (model animals). According to Lozier, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans built models of chariots, buildings, and ships (among other things). Later, Europeans and others built models of wagons, coaches, and ships, and still later trains, automobiles, and airplanes. One goal of model building is to create as accurate a representation of the subject as the modeler’s skill will allow. This goal is shared by many artists in their approach to their work and with most popular conceptions of art (Dutton, 2009) and some in the hobby press (e.g., Koester, 2007) have suggested that model building is a type of art.

Dutton (2009) argued that artistic ability is a sexually-selected fitness indicator. Artistic ability, on this account, indicates that the artist possesses certain characteristics that are attractive to potential mates. According to Dutton (1983), “As performances, works of art represent the ways in which artists solve problems, overcome obstacles, make do with available resources.” Should the link between modeling and art be true, this would yield some testable hypotheses. For example, those possessing modeling ability should tend to score highly on measures of problem-solving ability and measures of creativity and low on measures of psychological disorder or distress.

One further factor that I wish to explore is whether people who engage in a model building tend possess a particular personality type. The typology I plan to use was proposed by Holland (1973) in the context of making vocational choices. Holland suggested that there are 6 personality types: realistic (R), investigative (I), artistic (A), social (S), enterprising (E), and conventional (C). Realistic types tend to enjoy working with machines, tools, or animals and to possess skills that allow them to work with those things. They value concrete things and tend to see themselves as practical and mechanical. Investigative types like to think and solve math or science problems and they are good at doing those things. They value science and see themselves as intellectual. Artistic types enjoy the creative arts (e.g., painting, sculpture, music, theater) and have the skills that allow them to succeed in those areas. They value the arts and tend to see themselves as expressive and independent. Social types prefer working with people as teachers, counselors, nurses, etc. They value helping people and see themselves as helpful. Enterprising types enjoy leading people and selling things and they tend to be quite good at it. They see themselves as ambitious and sociable and value success in realms where they can be leaders (e.g., politics, business). Conventional types tend to see themselves as orderly and good at following plans. They enjoy working with numbers and office machines and are good at keeping accurate records. Every person resembles each of the 6 types to some degree, but the degree of resemblance will be stronger for some types than for others. Typically, only the 3 most dominant types for the person are used for career guidance. Because Holland’s types are based on a person’s preferences and interests, it seems logical that they would also influence a person’s choice of hobby, so I intend to determine each of my participants’ Holland type. There are existing measures of the Holland types, but they are all expensive, commercial measures that yield — for my purposes — overly detailed score reports that are geared toward guiding the respondent’s career choice. As a result, I developed my own measure. The major purpose of this pilot study is to test this measure to determine whether its psychometric properties are sufficient for research purposes.



Participants were recruited online through the author’s membership in various hobby-related Yahoo groups, links on the author’s Facebook and hobby-related Web pages, and emails to students enrolled in online psychology courses at Shepherd University. A total of 124 individuals began the survey, but 20 did not choose to complete it, leaving a final sample of 104. Of the 104, 87 were men (mean age 50.9 years, range 20 to 74 years) and 17 were women (mean age 37.1, range 19 to 67 years). All participants were volunteers who received no compensation for their participation.


The major purpose of this study was to test the Interest and Preference Inventory. This 72-item measure was designed to assess the Holland (1973) personality types. It consisted of 6 scales: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Each scale included 12 items in the form of simple declarative statement such as “I consider myself to be conscientious” and “I enjoy being the leader.” In each scale 3 items related to characteristics typical of individuals with that type, 3 related to abilities typically possesed by individuals with that type, 3 involved interests typically held by individuals of that type, and 3 involved occupations typically pursued by individuals with that type. Participants indicated their level of agreement with each statement on a 6-point scale that was anchored by “strongly disagree” at one end and “strongly agree” at the other. These were forced-choice items; there was no neutral response. There were a further 8 items which asked the participants’ age, sex, employment status, occupation (if employed), whether the person was satisfied with the occupation (yes or no), whether the individual had a hobby, what the hobby was, and how much time each week was spent on the hobby. The survey was administed online via SurveyMonkey.


Upon clicking the link provided to them, participants were presented an information page that informed them that completing the survey constituted their consent to participate and that they could stop at any point with no penalty. They were then asked to indicate their degree of agreement with each statement.

Results and Discussion

Interest and Preference Inventory. The major purpose of this study was to determine whether the Interest and Preference Inventory would be adequate for use in future research. To be useful, a psychological measure must be reliable and valid. Reliability, in this context, refers to the extent to which participants tend to answer all of the items from a scale in the same way. For instance, reliability is high if an individual who agrees with one of the items from the Conventional scale also agrees with the other items from the Conventional scale. This is referred to as internal consistency and is assessed by Cronbach’s α. In general, α varies from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating more internal consistency. Values of .70 or higher are usually required for a measure to be considered useful in research. Cronbach’s α for each of the subscales for the Interest and Preference Inventory can be found in Table 1. All of the values are in the acceptable range, indicating that the subscales are reliable.

Table 1. Cronbach’s α for each of the subscales of the Interest and Preference Inventory.
Subscale Cronbach’s α
Realistic .81
Investigative .82
Artistic .77
Social .74
Enterprising .78
Conventional .77

There are several ways to assess the validity of a measure. One is to show that the measure predicts behaviors that it would reasonably be expected to predict. For instance, Holland (1973) showed that measures of his personality types tended to predict the types of jobs held by the person taking the test. Realistic people, for example, tended to be found in Realistic jobs and Artistic people in Artistic jobs. In the current study, 76 of the 104 participants reported being employed. Each participant’s subscale scores were examined and the highest was taken to be the individual’s personality type. The 9 individuals with tied scores were not included in this analysis, yielding a sample of 67 participants who were both employed and had a clearly identifiable type. Each occupation was given the type listed in Holland (1973). Table 2 shows the number of individuals of each personality type in each job type. As expected, participants tended to be in jobs that corresponded to their personality type, χ2 (25) = 52.87, p = .001.

Table 2. The relationship between personality type, as measured by the Interest and Preference Inventory, and occupation type.
Realistic Investigative Artistic Social Enterprising Conventional Total

Realistic 11 6 0 2 3 0 22
Investigative 6 4 0 1 2 0 13
Artistic 0 0 2 2 0 0 4
Social 2 1 2 9 2 1 17
Enterprising 0 3 1 0 2 0 6
Conventional 3 0 0 1 0 1 5

Total 22 14 5 15 9 2 67

Further support for the validity of the Interest and Preference Inventory comes from a comparison of the correlations of the subscales obtained in the current study with those obtained by Holland, Whitney, Cole, and Richards (1969). Inspection of Table 3 suggests that the patterns are similar and correlational analysis shows that the two sets of values are significantly correlated, r (13) = .57, p = .025. There are some fairly large discrepancies, however, that bear further investigation.

Table 3. Correlations of the subscales. Correlations in black are from the Interest and Preference Inventory. Those with an asterisk are significantly different from 0. Correlations in red were reported in Holland et al. (1969).

Realistic Investigative Artistic Social Enterprising Conventional






Characteristics of Hobbyists. Of the 104 participants, 102 reported that they had a hobby, allowing some preliminary explorations of the characteristics of hobbyists. Participants were assigned into one of three groups based on their type of hobby: model builders, artistic hobbies (e.g., painting, writing, photography), or other hobbies (e.g., running, gardening). For this pilot study the assignments were made by the author using the following criteria. Any person who listed a kind of model building as a hobby was assigned to the modeler’s group, regardless of the other hobbies that person listed. Of the remaining participants, anyone who listed an artistic hobby was assigned to that group. The remaining participants were assigned to the other hobby group.

Several predictions can be tested with the obtained data. First, the Holland type for professional model building is IRC (Holland, 1973). Thus, the modelers should score significantly higher than the other 2 groups on those scales. Second, if the suggested link between model building and art is true, the modelers and the artistic hobbyists should score higher on the Artistic scale. The relevant data are shown in Figure 1. As expected, the effect of type of hobby on scores on the Realistic scale was significant, F (2, 99) = 4.89, p = .009, MSE = 66.18, η2 = .09. Post hoc analysis using Tukey’s HSD showed that the modelers scored significantly higher than the other two groups, which did not differ from each other. The effect of type of hobby on scores on the Investigative scale was also significant, F (2, 99) = 6.61, p = .002, MSE = 59.24, η2 = .12. Tukey’s HSD showed that the modelers scored significantly higher than those in the other hobby group, but that none of the other differences were significant. Finally, the effect of type of hobby on Conventional scale scores was significant, F (2, 99) = 8.02, p = .001, MSE = 44.86, η2 = .14. Again, Tukey’s HSD showed that the modelers scored significantly above the other groups, which did not differ from each other. This confirms the first hypothesis that modelers would score higher on the Realistic, Investigative, and Conventional scales. However, the effect of type of hobby on Artistic scale scores was not statistically significant, F (2, 99) = 0.55, p = .579, MSE = 72.27, η2 = .01. Thus, the second hypothesis was disconfirmed. No other differences were statistically significant.

Figure 1. The mean score on each of the scales for the modelers, arts hobbyists, and other hobbyists.
Error bars are standard error of the mean. Click on the graph to see it full size.

The results obtained in the current study are promising. The data suggest that the Interest and Preference Inventory possesses adequate reliability and validity for research purposes. Further, the fact that, for the most part, hobbyists differ from others in the ways predicted by theory suggests that further investigation would be a fruitful endeavor. One question to be addressed in the larger project that this study is part of concerns the finding that the modelers did not differ from the non-artistic hobbyists as predicted. It should be noted that those in the more clearly artistic hobbies (painting, photography) also did not differ significantly from the non-artistic hobbyists. Why that might be is for future research to determine.


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