The Death of Reading? Not so fast…

Link:  We mistakenly included the incorrect link in the July Personalityzone newsletter  Click here to go to the article:   Keirsey Research 2012 Election Tracking Poll: The Temperament Gap Holds Steady

Good news!  Despite conventional wisdom, and many alarmist essays to the contrary, reading for pleasure is still a popular pastime both in the U.S. and the rest of the world. (For a taste of the “alarmist essays to the contrary”, google “death of reading” and wade through more than 1.3 million results.)

Keirsey Research recently surveyed 3,311 people who had completed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II at to first find out if “the death of reading” is in fact imminent, and to see if there are significant differences in the reading habits of the 4 Temperaments.  We were specifically interested in peoples’ reading habits when it comes to books, as opposed to other media such as magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.

As noted in the opening paragraph, the answer to our first question is an emphatic “No!”  Almost 80% of our respondents tell us they enjoy reading books, and almost three quarters of them like to read for the pleasure of it.  Less than 20% consider book reading to be “unimportant” to them, more than 55% have read a complete book in the past month, and more than half are currently reading a book.  It seems that, even with the proliferation of screens in the world, there is still a lot of book reading going on.

The second of our objectives – to see if there are significant differences between the 4 Temperaments when it comes to reading habits – found that the answer is yes.  However, gender also plays a big part: women are much more avid readers as a gender than are men.  Perhaps this is not a surprise – it does seem that most book clubs (Oprah’s being the most famous) are comprised predominantly of women.  A guardian friend of mine, a male, pointed out to me, “They need something to do while I’m watching football / baseball / basketball / hockey / MMA / (ad infinitum) on TV.”

After the jump, we get into specifics:  which Temperament reads the most?  Which is the most likely to be found at a public library?   Do the different Temperaments prefer different genres?  Who is more likely to go to a bookstore and buy a book?  Given a choice of books or TV, who would be more likely to choose books?  Who would be more likely to choose TV?  Make your guesses and read on.

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We asked several questions to gauge who reads the most.  The most indicative to us seemed to be the answer to the following:  “Are you currently reading a book?”  Rational (NT) and Idealist (NF) women are the most avid readers – 74% of the NT women and 70% of the NF women are currently do so.  They were followed by Idealist men, Rational men, and Guardian women at 65%, 63%, and 61% respectively.  The least avid book readers are Guardian men, at 48%, with Artisan men statistically tied at 49%. One artisan friend of mine (a male) expressed no surprise at these numbers, explaining to me, “I’d really rather be doing it, than reading about it!”

The question of which temperament you are most likely to run into at a public library is a bit of a trick.  If you want to put money on it, the answer is “A guardian”.  Of course, this is because

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there are approximately as many  guardians as the other 3 Temperaments combined.  But, if you ask “Which temperament checks out books at the public library the most as a percentage of their population”, the answer is rationals.  A third of all rational respondents had checked out a book at the public library in the past month.  A quarter of idealists had done so, while less than 1 in 5 guardians or artisans used their library card in that timeframe.

To find out what the most popular genres are by temperament, we asked the following question:  “If you were to be awarded a gift certificate good for a selection of a particular genre of books, what genre would you select?”  (No stranded desert isle question, we figured all the rationals and artisans would answer “Practical Raft Building”).   We gave people a choice of 18 genres (as categorized by, and allowed them to select one.  In keeping with most of our results, gender played as a significant role as temperament in the responses.  Literature and Fiction was the most popular choice among any of the 8 segments of our survey population, with 30% and 28% of rational and idealist women, respectively, preferring this genre.  Science fiction scored with 28% of Idealist men.  No other genre scored higher than 20% in any of the 8 temperament / gender segments.  Overall, men of all 4 Temperaments prefer Science Fiction.  Concrete women (guardians and artisans) preferred Mystery / Thriller the most, while the abstract women (Idealist and Rational) preferred Literature & Fiction.  The top 3 preferences by segment were as follows:

  • Guardian men:  Science Fiction, Sports / Outdoors, Mystery / Thriller
  • Guardian women:  Mystery / Thriller, Romance, Literature & Fiction
  • Artisan men:  Science Fiction, Mystery / Thriller, Sport / Outdoors
  • Artisan women:  Mystery / Thriller, Literature and Fiction, Romance
  • Idealist Men:  Science Fiction,  Literature & Fiction, Religious / Spiritual
  • Idealist Women:  Literature & Fiction, Mystery / Thriller, Science Fiction
  • Rational men:  Science Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Politics / Social Sciences
  • Rational women:  Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery / Thriller

Looking at the data from a different angle gives a little more perspective in this area.  We looked at each genre to see if it was more highly preferred by a given temperament / gender group than the other groups and found this to be so in a number of cases:

  • Business and Investment: Guardian men
  • Comics and Graphic novels : Rational men (The Big Bang Theory seems to be on the mark with this one)
  • Computers and Technical: Artisan men
  • Crafts and Hobbies: Guardian women
  • Health and Fitness : Artisan women
  • History: Guardian men
  • Literature & Fiction: Rational and Idealist women
  • Politics and Social Sciences: Rational men
  • Religion and Spiritual: Idealist men and women
  • Romance: Guardian and Artisan women
  • Science Fiction: Idealist men
  • Sports / Outdoors: Guardian and Artisan men

The final question for our panel was which they would be more willing to give up for an extended period of time – TV or books?  The gratifying results – for book lovers,

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anyway –  is that a majority of respondents claimed they would rather give up TV.  Only Guardian and Artisan men proclaimed a preference for TV, with Rational men being evenly split.  Most willing to give up TV were Rational women and both Idealist genders at 60%.  I think there is a good lesson to take from this ladies:  if you are planning a romantic getaway to a mountain retreat, look for one without a TV – unless your sweetheart is an Idealist, that screen is going to be tough competition.

This survey was conducted between May 7-9, 2012 with 3,312 valid responses from persons who had previously completed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II.

0 thoughts on “The Death of Reading? Not so fast…”

  1. Seems like it might be a self-selecting data pool, seeing as how they all took the time and effort to take an online personality test, which could skew the results towards readers.

    1. I’m wondering about the difference in e-books and paper. It seems that those of us who have gone over to the dark side – e-books, read a lot more than we use to. I;m on my 73rd book in 3 months.

  2. I don’t know. Based on my friends who have used the sorter and talk about their type this seems right on target. Personally I’d like to see how age skews the results. When I was a kid 12-21 I read almost everything on the sci-fi shelf with a heavy leaning toward Trek novels. As a 20-35 year old I spent a lot of time in the spirituality/philosophy aisle with a lot of romance and historical fiction. Now at 42 there seems to be more alignment with these results. never big on autobiography. Sting is it.

    1. I, too, was wondering about the “age” factor. As I get older, I’m doing political reading almost exclusively. I’m an INTJ woman, btw. Although I still love literature and fiction.

      Currently, I’m reading a biography of Kurt Vonnegut!

      1. juliajayne, I hope it is as interesting as the USA Today article i read at his passing. I am so sad that he is gone. I never really knew all those things about him. Just that I do not want Vonnegut’s future world for my own. Though I am afraid that is where we are heading. Orwell’s too. 🙁

        1. If you’re a fan of Vonnegut’s work, you definately have to read the biography. I’m about 2/3 through and it’s great reading. He was a most fascinating man.

  3. I am pretty high on history despite being a Rational. In fact that may be my biggest category, I am also pretty high on religion and philosophy. Politics to at times. For fiction I often like sci-fi, fantasy, and such like as well as historical fiction.

    One thing interesting is that I like collecting books as well as reading. I have a good supply of Great Books. You can often get those for free to ninety-nine cents on Kindle and gather a library a Prince would have been proud of in the 1400s fairly conveniently. I also like the Kindle because with a nice pouch and a shoulder strap I can actually “wear” the Wisdom of the Ages.

    1. I’m also a rational and I’m extremely surprised that you missed that your to should really be too.

  4. History was the genre preferred by 4% of Rational males. It was preferred by 9% of Guardian males. We didn’t have people rank genres – we had them pick only one. It would not surprise me to see history picked in the top 5 genres consistently, by Rational males, if we gave that option. Most of my Rational friends tend to read a pretty broad range of genres, it sounds like you do too.

  5. interesting in that women and men, regardless of temperament, chose “typical” reading choices. I do agree that age does change preference for books preferred. I echo Thomas Jefferson’s writing – “I cannot live without books” ~~ Kindle and Nook – I have, but give me the hard copy book over those any time.

    Very good article. Thanks

  6. I wonder how much we might want to take into account a hyper Sensate media culture that increasingly has a larger and larger role as an agent of socialization. A Sensate driven culture is readily seen in the maxims by which we shape our lives: “Just do it!” Obey your thirst! Talk all the time! Never stop playing! Have it your way!” The entire phenomenon of instant gratification is rooted in this approach. How much might this play a major role in decline of reading generally and the avoidance of reading in Sensates? This is particularly true in our incoming college freshmen whom increasingly one must bribe with a content quiz to actually be sure they’ve read the material before class.

  7. I gave up TV 12 years ago and read 2-3 books a week. I always have one with me in case I hit a traffic jam or a long wait somewhere. Love historical novels, classics, mysteries, and philosophy. I haven’t bought into the eBook craze yet but I’ve been thinking about it. I love used books especially if they have interesting remarks from a previous reader. I’m an Idealist. Cate

    1. It must totally be an idealist thing to want to have relationship with a book that includes past readers. I have only found a few of them in my lifetime. And it always feels like we are part of a secret club. A club so secret that the members do not even know each other. 🙂
      I’d like to give up TV. But I am finding that the Geeks really are taking over the world. So many interesting things there lately. Though I confess I watch mostly on Hulu. Just yesterday I found that Scotland Yard was founded by a fiction author: Henry Fielding. Never read his stuff. But he predates Conan Doyle’s Holmes by nearly a hundred years. Really is fascinating stuff.

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