Sci-fi and fantasy readers are killing it in the relationship department, study finds

It's all about having mature ideas about how romantic relationships work.

A new study associated readers of six distinct genres with expectations and misconceptions about romantic partners and relationships. (An earlier, free version of the study results lives here.)


The winner? Those who are fans of science fiction and fantasy.


Dr Who (Tom Baker) meets one of the monsters from his new series. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Getty Images)

The study, published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, featured 404 adults (230 females, 179 males) and all were recruited online. The researchers conducted tests that asked participants to identify the names of authors in seven genres—classics, contemporary literary fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, suspense/thriller, and horror—and then tested them with a series of statements about five common, unrealistic beliefs about relationships:

  • Disagreement is destructive
  • Mind reading is expected
  • Romantic partners cannot change
  • The sexes are different
  • The expectation of sexual perfection

The 40 statements, featuring a six-point rating scale from true to false, were things like: "When couples disagree, it seems like the relationship is falling apart," "Men and women have the same basic emotional need," and "People who have a close relationship can sense each other's needs as if they could read each other's minds."

"Individuals who scored higher for exposure to science fiction/fantasy were less likely to endorse four unrealistic relationship beliefs," wrote the team, led by psychologist Stephanie C. Stern of the University of Oklahoma. "Romance is not the only written fiction genre to be associated with real-world beliefs about romantic relationships."

Readers of most genres were less likely to accept one of the five unrealistic beliefs, but those who read science fiction or fantasy were less likely than the rest to accept four of the five myths. The only one that they believed to be true was the expectation of sexual perfection.

So if you're cruising the local independent bookstore for a date, head on over to the Star Trek section.

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