Individual differences in receptiveness to literature

This project was completed in collaboration with Milan Oljača, and, in part, with Ilija Milovanović.

Not everyone likes books equally. Researchers mostly investigated reader expertise, separating people into those that are professionals and those that are laymen when it comes to literature. Another notable approach was the Literary Response Questionnaire, a set of questions asking about one’s reading habits, practices, and ordinary reactions to literary texts.

Both expertise and the Literary Response Questionnaire focus too much on skilled, expert readers and we wanted to see whether we can differentiate between everyone, beginning with those that practically never read. So Milan Oljača and I created the Receptiveness to Literature Questionnaire.

After testing several hundred people on the questionnaire, our results showed that the basic elements of receptiveness to literature describe two types of reading: reading for pleasure and thorough reading. Also, self-reported expertise had nothing to do with either of these. Expertise was not strongly related to performance on the Literary Response Questionnaire, either. It seems that these are different ways of differentiating between readers and that they may impact reading “performance” differently.

We also tried to extract classes of readers based on questionnaire responses (see the image above), but these were not very informative. It seems that receptiveness to literature is more of a continuum going from very low to very high. This is good, because we wanted to cover the whole range of receptiveness to literature. In any case, a lot more detail can be found in this publication of our work.

In collaboration with Ilija Milovanović, we also administered our questionnaire to elementary school students (ages 11 to 15). It seems that girls are more receptive than boys and older children are slightly less receptive than younger. Openness to experience and Conscientiousness are connected to higher receptiveness to literature, while Aggressiveness and Neuroticism are connected to lower receptivness to literature. It should be kept in mind that reading books for school is still mandatory at that age. The publication, albeit in Serbian only, can be found here.