Sci-fi and fantasy readers may be more romantically mature, study finds

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

A new University of Oklahoma study interviewed readers of seven distinct genres and tested their expectations (and misconceptions) about romantic partners and relationships. Who were the most realistic? Fans of science fiction and fantasy.

The study, which was published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, included 404 adults (230 females, 179 males), all of whom were recruited online. During preliminary probing, the researchers conducted tests that asked the participants to identify the names of authors in seven genres: classics, contemporary literary fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, suspense/thriller, and horror.

After this, they then tested the subjects with a series of statements centered around 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 assertions 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.

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.

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

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