Why do women read more fiction?

Yesterday I asked why women buy and read more fiction than do men, and whether there might be an evolutionary explanation for this phenomenon. In response, Fabio Rojas writes:

(a) It’s sometimes thought that dreaming, play and story telling are opportunities for people for practice their emotional/interpersonal skill without danger. They’re all about fictional social worlds that you can explore and relate to without endangering real world relationships.

(b) Women seem to specialize in cooperative, social interactions. I’m sure there’s an Evolutionary explanation for this.

(c) As specialists in social interactions, women would be more likely to refine and practice that skill, through engagement with literature/story telling.

John Paschetto notes:

…when I used to commute by train to Philadelphia, almost all the men read newspapers, and almost all the women read paperbacks.

My student Erte suggests that men have a greater evolutionary need to be physically stronger, which induces them to read less and be more active, perhaps they play more sports instead.

My take: All of these are noteworthy ideas. I might add that when men do buy books, they often prefer stories of adventure, such as Tom Clancy novels. Furthermore men may invest more effort in potentially high status activities, which presumably does not include reading novels. It remains a puzzle, however, why women start reading more toward the latter part of their childbearing years. True, they are busier when they have young children, but if we are going to use an evolutionary explanation, it would be nice to explain the timing as well. Do older women have some special interest in understanding social networks?


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