Personality and the Avid Reader
Except for the odd book club, poetry slam or author reading his work, book reading is perhaps one of the more private things a person can do. Typically, you take a book to a quiet corner or take it along when you are having lunch alone or riding the bus. It should therefore come as no surprise that a higher percentage of Introverts describe themselves as avid book readers than Extraverts.
Introverts also tend to be more sensitive to outside stimuli, causing them to live more inside themselves. Books are something readers take in and digest within their minds. Reading is not only mostly solitary, but it is also digested internally. While these characteristics don’t necessarily exclude Extraverts from the ranks of readers, they can make reading more attractive to Introverts.
To this point, we recently asked the 16Personalities community to respond to the statement, “You are an avid book reader.” As expected, those who had primarily Introverted qualities agreed with the statement more than those with Extraverted characteristics (66.33% to 54.25%). The second trait coupling that showed a difference was that between those with the Intuitive trait and those with the Observant trait (64.50% to 53.83%).
Lastly, while the responses between the Judging and Prospecting traits showed little difference on average, we noted that when all other traits are the same, by comparing ISTJs (“Logisticians”) to ISTPs (“Virtuosos”) for example, that consistent differences surfaced. We’ll discuss this in the Sentinels and Explorers section, where the difference was clearest.
Among the personality type roles, we would expect to find the most avid readers in the Analyst and Diplomat groups, with their shared Intuitive trait. More importantly though, when we look at the individual types within each group, we find that the Introverted personalities steadfastly hold higher percentages of being self-proclaimed avid book readers, regardless of whether their group favored being Intuitive or Observant.
For example within the Explorer group, an Observant group and the group least likely to be avid readers, we find that the Introverted personality types responded more affirmatively to the statement than the Extraverts (ISTPs (“Virtuosos”) – 53.72%, ISFPs (“Adventurers”) – 53.79%, ESTPs (“Entrepreneurs”) – 43.39%, ESFPs (“Entertainers”) – 46.42%). This is a consistent pattern in all the groups, suggesting perhaps that Introversion has a stronger overall influence than the Intuitive trait.
All that said, the statement people responded to was not about the type of books read, and didn’t include newspapers or even the articles here on this site, making these follow-up questions a great topic to explore in future polls. Nonetheless, we can speculate on reading habits based on what we know about each group. The purpose and usefulness each group sees in reading may give us some hints as to why they tend to do so more or less avidly.
While there is a negligible difference between Analysts and Diplomats in this poll, further research would be interesting to see if the material they read, and the reason they read, are different. We can speculate that Diplomats are more likely to be readers because of their love for symbols, human potential, and big ideas. Words are themselves symbols, and a good writer pulls them together artfully to create even more complex symbols through metaphor and other figurative writing devices. This would engage the typical Diplomat.
One could speculate that the imaginative Diplomats might read fiction, philosophy, and religion, dabbling in ideas of human potential with self-help and psychology as well, more than other groups. They would use such books to fuel their fertile and unique imaginations. In fact, our previous study showed that Diplomats are the group most interested in works of fiction, which ties in nicely with their general interest in reading.
The Analysts’ Intuitive and Thinking traits stimulate them to explore systems and provide them with a supple intellectual curiosity. They are more likely to read a lot so as to understand things or to be challenged intellectually. They might read fiction if it focuses on imagined systems as authors portray them – the sort of thing one might find in science fiction or spy novels. This is probably the group least likely to enjoy an emotionally-laden romance novel.
You’re more likely to see Analysts reading non-fiction in order to gain insights that they can use. Despite the fact that there are many ways to keep up to speed in this century, Analysts may still find that they read books, whether on paper or on a screen, to further their knowledge. Books on science, economy, technology or strategy might be the sort of thing you see in abundance in their personal libraries.
Sentinels and Explorers
Reading may hold less attraction for Sentinels and Explorers because of their deep regard for down-to-earth matters. Certainly avid readers would argue the practicality of books, but the Observant personality types falling under these two roles may have more of a sense that the important things are found in the real world, not on the pages of a book.
That doesn’t mean at all that they dismiss books entirely – just that their regard is not quite as high as Analysts’ and Diplomats’. They may see some books as based too much on the theoretical or the imagined. This is supported by the study on fiction mentioned above – it showed that Sentinels and Explorers were the types least likely to be interested in works of fiction, with a significant gap between them and the other two groups.
A healthy portion of the Sentinel type group (56.35%) does report being avid book readers though. Sentinels celebrate tradition and established values, and their reading habits likely reflect that whether fiction or non-fiction. Books themselves are a traditional means of transmitting thoughts and information, and the reading of them may hold a certain attraction for that reason alone. Sitting down with a good book in the evening may just seem like the right thing to do.
While Explorers, like Sentinels, are oriented toward the practical, they are also gifted with a bias toward action. They would rather be actively doing something, and this often means some kind of physical and hands-on expression of their skill. Reading may not fit that bill for some and may lessen their desire to read. Still, keep in mind that 48.97% of Explorers stated that they were avid book readers. Explorers are by no means devoid of readers, they just may have less of a tendency to read as much.
The difference between Sentinels and Explorers also is where we see the difference between the Prospecting and Judging traits most clearly. When all other traits are the same, such as when we compare ISTJs (“Logisticians”, 63.41%) to ISTPs (“Virtuosos”, 53.72%), we find a difference that almost rivals that between Introverts and Extraverts (ESTJs (“Executives”) come in hardly a point lower, at 52.41%). Prospecting types’ bias against books, relative to their Judging peers, may simply be the mark of a wandering intellect or attraction, arguably their hallmark.
How does this line up with you? Does it fit your personality or do you have a different perspective to share? Feel free to comment.