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Why Women Read More Than Men

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But seriously, I do think girls have more facility with language than boys, esp. at the younger ages. 

True.

Hey BILL! I see pictures - I practically smell stuff when I read. I heard it described as generating an energy field or going into a trance. That's where I am when I read. But I bet most males don't get there.
#31 - October 03, 2007, 10:42 AM
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Simon was my graduate advisor at Cambridge (hence my interest in studying empathising and fiction!)- I'm actually flying to the UK tomorrow to meet with him and go over my dissertation from last spring.  :)

Cool.  I think boy/girl innate differences are interesting.  Clearly there's a spectrum.

My boy is very boyish.  And my girl is definitely girlish, with her love of dolls and playing mommy, but she likes most of the boy things too.  She seems more balanced to me.  My boy was a late talker ... in fact he pretty much only grunted until he was about three.  He's very visual ... knew his alphabet by the time he was two and he learned to say Mama because I spelled it for him.  I saw all the stages of normal language development in him in the space of a month when he decided to speak.  It was interesting.  But both kids have loved music, and stories and books from the time they were babies.

Although I'm very female, I've been told I think like a man (sometimes in very accusatory tones) because I'm logical, level-headed and calm during crises.  I'm not given to tears much.

So I am curious whether this reading business is related at all to gender.  Yes, it does seem to be true that men read less than women, but why?  Is it because it's innate -- y chromosome testosterone thing?  Or is it because of our culture and habits?  Remember, that in the olden days, it was only the men who read, because women were illiterate.

Much food for thought.
Vijaya
#32 - October 03, 2007, 11:27 AM
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I have met few (male or female) who read as much as I have and how much I do read. 
HOWEVER, my period of life as an athlete (no one famous, just active) definitely had a considerably negative impact on my reading volume.  There are only 24 hours in a day.
So I read far less during high school, college and in the post-college period of serious men's leagues (two or three a week).
Of course, women get involved in athletics too - don't jump on me for suggesting otherwise.  I personally know plenty of women more athletic than I.
But a lot of guys go deep into athletics for competition and male bonding and fellowship.

Steve
#33 - October 03, 2007, 11:39 AM

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Hey everyone... I just wanted to weigh in on this one as both my hubby and I discussed the original article/study extensively and we came up with a resolution that was entirely different from what the 'scientist" determined.
In his study, he gave away free novels to people on the street. He said that he only managed to convince a few guys to take it.

We (my husband and I) think that this just illustrates that men are more distrusting of things that are being given away. They tend to look at a "freebie" as something that is going to require an action on their part - where they'll get hit with tons of spam or phone calls or... you get the idea. I think that the person who did the 'test' misjudged why men didn't want his book. Even I am suspicious of people giving something away - my first reaction is normally "if it's free, it can't be very good or valuable" I don't like clutter and I don't need more "junk" in my life... why would I want a "freebie" that is unquantifiable at that moment? That doesn't mean that, if I have entered a contest, I wouldn't like my freebie (thank you so much Lill, my daughter and I still love reading There's a Yak in my Bed) - but it is something I have CHOSEN rather than have thrust upon me.

Now, many of you men here have already said that you prefer to read non fiction - however, that doesn't mean that you don't like to read fiction. I know that my husband would choose a nf title before a fiction one. However, he also enjoys narrative non-fiction (such as Flags of our Fathers) and fiction based on a historical/scientific concept/event (I just picked up one about Tiannamen Square that he is all gung-ho to read). He loves arthurian legends and stuff about the Templars (and other masons like that... he is a Mason). So, I think that it is also that men are more selective about what they want to read in terms of fiction. They don't like investing time in something that they are uncertain about (my guess is that they wait for the book reviews on new authors in a genre that interests them... but I am willing to be proved wrong).

Maude  :jump
#34 - October 03, 2007, 12:03 PM

I like the wrong conclusion response. I see it all the time. I saw a study where they put people, alone, out on a rope bridge and then interviewed them afterwards. They discovered that people longed for closeness after such an experience. They decided that absence does make the heart grow fonder. My take was that when people are afraid, they want help. The study must have been devised by someone that had no fear of heights.


FYI: I HATE reading non-fiction.
#35 - October 03, 2007, 12:14 PM
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Vijaya, it is quite common for late talkers to be visual. I didn't talk till I was about four. And never in school until I was in second grade. And then reluctantly. I talk now, often to myself. And I'm an artist.
#36 - October 03, 2007, 12:28 PM

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Good point, Maude.  It is often surprising what we do end up "measuring". 

Wow! Barb!  You were a really late talker.  My son is a big talker now, and the most social one in our family.

Paula, my daughter too.  Loves to talk on the phone even though I can't stand it.  I love watching her play with her little animals and people ... it's like a play and she talks in ALL their voices.  Apparently, I talked too much as a child, too.

Vijaya
#37 - October 03, 2007, 01:04 PM
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Sorry, I meant I could. I just didn't.
#38 - October 03, 2007, 01:05 PM

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I agree with Maude and also thought the study was misinterpreting who likes to collect stuff into who likes to read. They have no way of knowing who actually read the novels that were handed out. Maybe women just like to shop more than men (what a novel idea!) and know a good deal when they see one. My daughter and I are always looking hungry at the mall food courts, so we’ll be offered free samples of chicken or whatever, whereas son and husband will take no part in this embarrassing charade. I also agree that most traits can be found in both males and females. My kids are voracious readers, but the boy is more of a talker than the girl. She takes after me.  ;D
#39 - October 03, 2007, 02:16 PM
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I think the main focus of the article isn't McEwan's "admittedly unscientific experiment."  That was just the introduction.  The article goes on to cite real AP surveys and studies, and I found these key points really interesting:

Quote
Among avid readers surveyed by the AP, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.

When it comes to fiction, the gender gap is at its widest. Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain.


I wouldn't say this article is misinterpreting anything.  McEwan's "study" was just a jumping off point.

Laura  :)
#40 - October 03, 2007, 10:18 PM
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I agree, Laura. The opening of the article was about an author (not a scientist) who merely made an observation while handing out novels. It was purely anecdotal, and the writer of the article admitted it was not scientific.
#41 - October 03, 2007, 10:39 PM

Funny, I'd never really noticed a gender imbalance in my own life.  My mom loves to read, but my dad's the one who ALWAYS makes time for it, and all through my teen years he'd swipe books I left lying around.  (We both share a love of non-fiction, especially quirky history, although he reads fiction too.)  My female friends read growing up, but I often shared more tastes with my male friends, talking about Xanth, DragonLance, and the X-Men.  When I worked at Sears, it was always guys who'd start chatting Harry Potter with me when I read it in the break room; same thing happened when I was reading Asimov in there too.  At my current job, I've talked more books over with a guy than anyone else too (out of an overwhelmingly female staff)--he's even a big Jane Austen fan, of all things.  And my boyfriend loves to read, too, although he's just slow at it, so I read more than he does.

Maybe I've just always attracted more guy readers because I read a lot of "guy" stuff.  (Comics, fantasy, sci-fi in the case of Asimov, and historical nonfic.)

Of course, lately I just read YA, mostly...
#42 - October 03, 2007, 10:47 PM
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I've just discovered this thread and I find this discussion fascinating.  My husband and I are both great readers and come from reading families. I was amused to see that Sam never reads non-fiction, and Life-on-Mars, though female, does. My husband too seldom reads non-fiction, whereas I cannot get enough of it and devour biographies and memoirs. I especially like books about war and the memoirs of soldiers; I don't think I could bribe my husband to read one of those.  My husband has always been a reader, even when he was doing a lot of sports in high school. He reads more fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and YA fiction than I, and I am indebted to him for introducing me to many great children's and YA authors. But he is good enough to remember that if it hadn't been for me, he would not have read 'The Secret Garden,' a book he enjoyed very much, to my amazement.
#43 - October 04, 2007, 02:13 AM

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"I wouldn't say this article is misinterpreting anything.  McEwan's "study" was just a jumping off point."

You're right. I was only commenting on the opening which is a fine jumping off point. It's a well-done, interesting article and I'm glad Lenzi brought it to our attention. It's interesting how many other subjects can come out of it, too.

#44 - October 04, 2007, 05:12 AM
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I smiled when I saw the part in the article where in a bookstore, men will head for the non-fiction and women for the fiction. Not us! My husband will head for the magazines and I will head for the children's section.  :D

My husband grew up in a home where the only thing his dad ever read was the paper, and who depended on the T.V. to relax (and still does). I grew up in a home where my dad read the paper, but also read non-fiction books in the evenings and always carried the Reader's Digest or other magazine if he thought he'd have to sit in a waiting room for awhile. So I grew up where everyone read more than they watched T.V. and my husband grew up just the opposite.

Just the other day, my husband was watching the T.V. tour of a big stylish home of a hockey player (husband and father of 3 small kids). There were widescreen T.V.'s in practically every room, and lovely furnishings, and plenty of toys and playthings ... but no bookcases anywhere, not even for the kids. I pointed that out to my husband (who was admiring the house) and he hadn't even noticed. Well, I NOTICED!

There may be some things in life my kids are deprived of, but it's NOT books.
#45 - October 04, 2007, 12:26 PM

There may be some things in life my kids are deprived of, but it's NOT books.
You're probably doing a lot right in both ways (given them books and depriving them of other things).
#46 - October 04, 2007, 01:08 PM
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Despite Hazelnut's (perfectly valid!) observations, I have to say that the presence of TV or the amount you watch has absolutely, positively NOTHING AT ALL to do with how much you read.

I grew up in a TV family--and it's something we still enjoy--watching together, talking about shows we watch, etc.  I know it's practically sagrilege to admit this *here,* but I'd have an easier time giving up books than TV (I seriously think this has something to do with my ability to MAKE MORE BOOKS, though.  I'm not capable of replacing the TV all on my own!).  My TV goes on at 5 am, and goes off at midnight (or later).  It's not as if I WATCH all that time, please note!  It's primarily for background noise for our animals (so they can't hear the idiots behind us putting up new siding, etc.).

HOWEVER... my parents were journalists.  EVERYONE in my house read.  We had magazine subscriptions, three newspaper subscriptions, made weekly pilgrimages (on foot!) to the Bookmobile, and spent all our mall time and money at Waldenbooks.

I grew up reading a lot of what my big brother read, although our tastes have diverged in recent years (this is a source of sadness to me).  My brother would get in trouble for reading instead of doing his schoolwork.  He did so poorly in third grade math, my parents had to take away his books as a penalty.  In their defense, he grew up to be a mathematician... so things worked out in the end.

Our grandparents' Christmas and birthday gifts were always books, or money to buy books.  Someone in our house was always reading something (quite often AS we were watching TV!).

But I'm probably the only one who limited her reading to almost exclusively novels.  I find magazines poorly (or incompletely) written, the newspaper exhausts me... and though I read a goodly share of non-fiction, it's seldom for pure pleasure (but for research for a novel).

My husband's experience was pretty similar--his family watched a lot of TV growing up, too... but their house, like ours, is FULL of books.  His mom is one of my best book-buddies--we swap great reads all the time, and always have a stack to trade whenever we get together.  His father is a voracious reader of non-fiction, on a few very specific interests.  I should also point out that my parents have advanced academic degrees, while neither of DH's parents went to college, and his father has his GED.  So in our case, it has nothing to do with how much formal education was received, either.  DH's tastes in reading are "typically male."  He'll read his own share of fiction... but he'll read a lot of non-fiction, magazines, comics, and big long things he's printed off the internet.  What he reads is usually very closely related to whatever he's "into" at a particular moment.  He's on a "Star Trek" kick right now, so he's got a lot of "making of 'Star Trek'" books, the recent Christie's auction catalogue, etc.

***
My background is in anthropology, and I'll put that hat on now.  I think females tend to read a lot for the pure pleasure of it--reading for the sake of reading-- but males read to "get" something out of it--knowledge, education, how to do something, etc.  When I was growing up, my father *never* read fiction unless it was in Spanish, a language he spoke fluently.  Reading fiction in Spanish was like a mental workout for him.  One of his favorite leisure reads (which I'd see him crack open on countless Saturday mornings growing up) was an Arabic language primer!  And I've already described DH's reading habits--lots of stuff to inform whatever his current interest is.

Judging from the TV tastes of my family, it has little to do with empathy or caring about the characters in a story--my dad loves "The Dead Zone" just as much as I do, and has been asking me lately what I think will happen now that a love interest has developed between two characters!  Which I could, um, kinda care less about :dr.  Because if males can care about imaginary characters on a TV screen, there's no reason they can't do it on a page. 

But reading is just a wee bit more *active* than watching TV... and as one of the men here pointed out, men are programmed to DO... so reading should be an activity that ACCOMPLISHES something.



#47 - October 04, 2007, 01:38 PM
« Last Edit: October 04, 2007, 01:41 PM by ecb »

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I love the story about your brother, ecb.  My mother took away my books as punishment (or perhaps it was something about fresh air) and I swore I would never do that to my kids.  I've turned into my mother.  Now, I, too, confiscate books from both kids ...

I also think that the mere presence of books and magazines can turn kids into readers, rather than the absence of TV.

ecb -- isn't pleasure a goal in and of itself?  If many men don't read because they don't get pleasure out of it, then the question is why?

Vijaya
#48 - October 04, 2007, 01:54 PM
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I don't think it's that they don't get pleasure out of it... I think that they don't see pleasure as a goal in and of itself.  You don't, for instance, see a lot of men indulging in a spa day. ;)  A (stereotypical) man would spend a day off tinkering with the car.  Most typical women would call that a chore, and use a day off for a day OFF (if such a thing were possible :dr).
#49 - October 04, 2007, 03:14 PM

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Ah ... the lightbulb goes on.

You don't, for instance, see a lot of men indulging in a spa day. ;) 

Me neither ... gosh, it feels like I'm missing something. 
By the way, I did go to the original Spa (in Belgium) and they had bath houses and such.

Vijaya

#50 - October 04, 2007, 05:30 PM
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You don't, for instance, see a lot of men indulging in a spa day.

I wouldn't know, I've never gotten to indulge in one myself. Just had to say that.

Elizabeth, I know some homes like yours where people watch quite a lot of T.V., movies, and read a lot of books and print too. After all, these are all wonderful ways of getting information and entertainment. But I know of more households, where people watch T.V. and surf the net and perhaps read the newspaper, and never crack open a book. And with all the wealth of wonderful books out there (and free to check out from libraries), I feel that's a real shame.
 
#51 - October 04, 2007, 05:47 PM

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I think if you're spending all day tinkering with your car you probably are considering that fun. At least, that's definitely how I feel about tinkering with my webpage  :). A day spa on the other hand sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.
#52 - October 04, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Because if males can care about imaginary characters on a TV screen, there's no reason they can't do it on a page. 

It's pretty well documented, though, that male brains are much more visually-oriented than female brains, which I think is a factor for why guys are so much more into video games, computer games, and (I think) TV than girls, on average.

I don't think it's that they don't get pleasure out of it... I think that they don't see pleasure as a goal in and of itself

LOL... except maybe for sex, which I think is a pretty big "except."  ;D
#53 - October 05, 2007, 09:55 AM
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No, but see--that's useful, too.  Or my friends with kids tell me, at any rate. ;)
#54 - October 05, 2007, 10:13 AM

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Interesting topic.

I'm a teacher and we've discussed this many times in meetings. From these discussions it seems boys like nonfiction, how to books, fantasy, and science fiction the best. I've encouraged our librarian to purchase some graphic novels.  :)
#55 - October 06, 2007, 01:05 PM

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There's actually a survey out now that shows more women than men currently have game consoles:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/techdigest/20071001/ttc-more-women-own-games-consoles-than-m-e870a33_1.html

And a 2006 study found there were more women gamers than men in the 25 to 34 category:

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/apr2006/id20060419_397084.htm?chan=innovation_game+room_top+stories
#56 - October 06, 2007, 01:43 PM
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No kidding, C.K.!? I'm amazed. :o Thanks for sharing those. I wonder how the survey was done, though; if it was an online survey the results would be very, very skewed. And I wonder how much the age group affects. I know zillions of guys over 35 who are gamers, and not a single woman. I'm sure as we ancients die off, though, it'll level out!  ;D
#57 - October 06, 2007, 10:07 PM
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There are two types of people in the world--those who think there are two types of people in this world, and those who don't.

 ;D

It's interesting to read this thread--it shows how much we humans love to make categories and fit everything into them. But at the same time, we enjoy finding or being one that doesn't fit into a category. Hmmmm.
#58 - October 07, 2007, 09:50 AM

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Despite Hazelnut's (perfectly valid!) observations, I have to say that the presence of TV or the amount you watch has absolutely, positively NOTHING AT ALL to do with how much you read.


Agreed.  I read at least 150 or 200 novels a year, and I'm a TV fanatic.  I'm very "fiction-prone" in general, and that comes out in my TV and movie preferences.
#59 - October 07, 2007, 01:29 PM

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I have to third this.  I've been an avid reader all my life -- and I still love TV!  In fact, one of my favorite activities is reading while the TV is on :)
#60 - October 07, 2007, 05:09 PM
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