An Open Book?

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

 One of the easiest ways of measuring your personality is simply to ask which types of (a) TV, (b) films and (c) books/magazines you enjoy.

Communal: (a) daytime talk shows, (b) romance, family, (c) romance, cooking, religion

Aesthetic: (a) arts and humanities, (b) foreign, classics, (c) art, poetry

Dark: (a) horror, late-night TV, (b) horror, cult, (c) horror, erotic

Thrilling: (a) action, adventure, (b) action, sci-fi, (c) thrillers, espionage

Cerebral: (a) business, economy, health, (b) documentary, (c) news, nonfiction

A recent study of over 3,000 people (conducted at the University of Texas) found numerous correlations between these preferences and measures of personality and education. Communal types tend to have received less education and are poor at abstract reasoning, but are tender, warm and understanding. Fans of Aesthetic and Dark entertainment are both well-educated and good at abstract reasoning. But while the former are calm and introspective, the latter are provocative, outgoing and incautious. Cerebral types tend to well-organized, enterprising and self-assured (to the point that they dislike cooperation). But people who like Thrillers are a law unto themselves, showing no consistent characteristics (other than being male); an inconsistency that is perhaps thrilling in its own right.

 A fully referenced version of this article is available at Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at

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