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Personality and Fiction Choices

14 Apr 2014 4:00 PM | Deleted user

This article comes from Jeanne Madden, Head of User Services, Falmouth Memorial Library. It was originally published in The Shopping Notes.

Talk with any of your friends and you will find that you probably have different tastes in the types of books you prefer to read.  Many people stick to one fiction genre while others bounce around.  While it is simple to ask WHAT types of fiction readers enjoy, I started to think about WHY readers choose the genres they do.

There have actually been some studies done on this topic of preferences and they found that personality has a lot to do with it.  That seems obvious.  For example, my personality is very different from others and your personality is different from mine, so we probably gravitate toward different types of movies, television and books.  But think about your fiction choices in terms of your Myers-Briggs assessment (we have probably all had this done at some point), or by looking at “The Big Five.”   In psychology, the Five-Factor Inventory model is the widely accepted theory that establishes five factors to describe human personality: openness to experiences (OPE), conscientiousness (CON), extraversion (EXT), agreeableness (AGR) and neuroticism (NEU).

Studies were conducted using the Big Five factors to determine preferences for various entertainment domains called Domain-specific Personality-based User Stereotypes.   Looking at just the book domain it is interesting to see that people with a high degree of OPE tend to like poetry and science fiction, whereas those with a low degree of OPE prefer drama, scary and crime books.

Of course, being the librarian that I am, I had to go online and find where I could take a free “Big Five Personality Test” to find out my score.  Turns out my highest score is in EXT which, according to the study, reflects how much an individual is oriented towards things outside themselves and derive satisfaction from interacting with other people.  It also indicates that females with a high EXT score are drawn to “scary” books.  This makes sense to me since I am the librarian who focuses on paranormal fiction with vampires, werewolves, evil fairies and more.

For fun I asked my fellow library staff members to share with me not only what they read but why.  I got some great answers and want to share a couple with you.

“I love reading fiction not so much as an escape but to experience life through another lens; a different era, worldview, gender, culture, etc.  I also love sci-fi and fantasy because again, it’s a way to experience the human condition in another context, but it’s grappling with essentially what it means to be human.  And I really like Steampunk because… well, it’s got widgets and I really want aviator goggles to be everyday fashion.”  Megan S.

“I’m drawn to and gravitate toward the memoir genre.  I’ve thought long and hard as to why I’m so fascinated by other’s semi-autobiographical view of their lives…is it because 1) my life is boring and predictable, a bit too normal, or 2) I’m grateful that my life IS so stable, vibrant, full of fun times, good friends, loving family, a wonderful career…which lends itself to reading about those who aren’t as fortunate?  The jury is still out.  Bottom line…I love memoirs.”  Nina M.

So, what does your reading selection say about you?  In the end people’s reading choices are their own concern and the reasons why these choices are made is up to them.  The most important thing is that people read – whether for pleasure or education, to escape into another world or to learn more about their own – we must keep reading.  Go ahead and ask one of your friends why they choose the genres they do – or ask a library staff member the next time you are in.  You may be surprised to hear the reasons for the choices they make and may even get to know them a little better.

Looking for your next read?  Maybe we will have to add personality assessments to our Reader’s Advisory Services… well, maybe not.  The library’s website has a number of tools to help you determine your next read.  Visit and select the “Find a good book” link under the Reader’s Corner tab.  This will lead you to a number of tools to help you find your next book.  

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