Cognitive Daily

Last week we wondered whether sports fans and arts buffs were nonintersecting groups. I knew there were some exceptions to the idea that an arts snob wouldn’t set foot inside an athletic complex. For example, a friend of mine is an art history professor, but also such a big football fan that in his spare time he serves as an equipment manager (read “cleans soiled jockstraps”) for the Carolina Panthers. Despite exceptions like this, we wanted to know if on the whole the stereotype was true. There’s also a second possibility, one which was borne out by our results: perhaps some people like to go out, and others like to stay in; whether they attend a gallery opening or a football game is a less important difference than extraversion or introversion.

424 readers responded to our survey, indicating how often they attended/participated in both arts events and sporting events.

This first graph should give you a general sense of the results:


If you paid to visit a museum or listen to classical music in the past year, you were more likely to attend a sporting event than if you didn’t attend those arts events. You also likely watched less TV. There was a small but significant positive correlation (r=.13) between attending arts events and attending sporting events. For an even more dramatic difference, take a look at this graph:


As you can see, vigorous sports participation (team sports, running, and so on) is significantly higher for people who attend more than 5 arts events (museums, poetry readings, and so on) per year compared to those who don’t. The same is true for people attending more than 5 popular culture events, like rock concerts and Broadway musicals. And as you might expect, people who attend arts and cultural events also are more likely to participate in the arts.

There are tons more correlations to back up the premise that people are more readily divided into doers who participate in sports, go to arts events, and attend sporting events, and stay-at-homes who watch TV but don’t actively participate in arts or sports events as much. Here’s a sampling:


So it appears that the Greek ideal of a sound mind and a sound body lives on in many of our readers, who watch and participate in both the arts and sports, while others prefer to stay home.

Note: this will be the last Casual Friday until the fall. Greta and I, along with our kids will be spending the summer in Europe and won’t be able to update CogDaily as frequently as usual.

Don’t worry, though — you’ll be left in good hands. We have a summer intern, Aaron Couch, who’ll be handling the day-to-day operation of Cognitive Daily and offering some insight of his own. In addition, there will be new research articles all summer long, written by Greta’s top student writers and edited by me and Greta.

We’ll be here all next week, and Aaron will take the reins beginning Monday, June 4.


  1. #1 Roeland Hancock
    May 26, 2007

    But you’d really want to collect data on introversion/extroversion and discretionary income. Perhaps the people who go to sporting and art events are those with the money to do so.

  2. #2 Dave Munger
    May 26, 2007

    Roeland, you’re right, we could have done that, but we still wouldn’t really know what causes what. Suppose we had found a correlation between income and attending arts/sports events. Note all the other correlations we found — with exercise, arts participation, and so on.

    Perhaps the real cause of all the correlations is physical fitness, which results both higher income and more interest in going out.

    Regardless, I still find it interesting that people who like the arts also like sports and vice versa. That goes against the stereotype, no matter what the reason.

  3. #3 Tony Jeremiah
    May 26, 2007

    Based on the correlations shown above, there also seems to be a counterinuitive suggestion that arts fans are more likely to be doers, and sports fans are more likely to be watchers if one does a rough hierarchical analysis.

    The first indication is between the two highest correlations: (Arts, Arts Participation): .35; and (Sports, Sports TV: .32). Since Sports and Sports TV appear to be measures of watching sports, and Arts and Arts Participation are measures of watching and doing arts respectively, this is the first suggestion that sports is equated with solely watching sports, and arts is equated with watching and doing arts. This is further supported if you separate the variables into watching and doing constructs:

    WATCHING (Television)

    Sports TV:Arts (.02)
    Other TV: Arts (.03)

    Sports TV: Sports (.32)
    Other TV: Sports (?)

    Here, there is no significant correlation between watching arts and watching tv. However, there’s a significant correlation with sports and tv.

    DOING (Exercise)

    Vigorous Exercise: Arts (.22)
    Non-Vigorous Exercise: Arts (.25)

    Vigorous Exercise: Sports (.10)
    Non-Vigorous Exercise: Sports (.05)

    These correlations are (perhaps strangely) showing higher (and significant) correlations between art and exercise, and lower, borderline correlations between sport and exercise.

    So based on this data, it appears that arts people tend to be also doers (of exercise) while sports people appear to be primarily watchers (rather than doers) of exercise/sports.

  4. #4 Odile
    May 26, 2007

    fun article. I’m curious how the circle of Kolb fits in. Maybe the people who are doing are less into gathering information , design,or evaluating right now?

  5. #5 Ambitwistor
    May 29, 2007

    Possibly relevant observation: at the local science magnet high school, athletics participation was higher than in any of the other 20-odd high schools in the area.

    I wonder if these correlations have more to do with socioeconomic class or general education level than any specific relation to the arts.

  6. #6 roseindigo
    June 1, 2007

    Not only has participation to do with the amount of discretionary income, but also with the amount of discretionary time. We all have only 24 hours a day. While I enjoy both art and many sports, if it comes down to the wire I would always opt for the arts first if there was only limited time.

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