"A couple of years ago, British author Ian McEwan conducted an admittedly unscientific experiment. He and his son waded into the lunch-time crowds at a London park and began handing out free books. Within a few minutes, they had given away 30 novels.
"Nearly all of the takers were women, who were 'eager and grateful' for the freebies while the men 'frowned in suspicion, or distaste.' The inevitable conclusion, wrote McEwan in The Guardian newspaper: 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.'"
So begins Eric Weiner's story on NPR: Why Women Read More Than Men. This "fiction gender gap" is no news to booksellers, who point out that women customers head straight for the fiction section, and men to the nonfiction. And surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and the UK say that men account for only 20% of the fiction market.Why? One of the more recent theories focuses on "mirror neurons" and cognitive scientists' observations that women are more empathetic than men:
"Located behind the eyebrows, these neurons are activated both when we initiate actions and when we watch those same actions in others. Mirror neurons explain why we recoil when seeing others in pain, or salivate when we see other people eating a gourmet meal. Neuroscientists believe that mirror neurons hold the biological key to empathy."
It turns out that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men. That might explain why fiction, which requires readers to emphasize with characters, appeals more to women.
"'Reading, requires incredible patience, and the ability to 'feel into' the characters. That is something women are both more interested in and also better at than men,'" says Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain."
Any men out there disagree?
Thanks to Book/Daddy for the lead.