The stereotype of science fiction and fantasy fans being geeks who are hopeless at romance may not be true after all, a study has revealed.
In fact, people who read novels by the likes of JK Rowling could make better romantic partners.
Scientists from the University of Oklahoma found people of both sexes who have a good knowledge of those genres have more realistic relationship expectations.
So, although you might think a Fifty Shades of Grey reader will bring excitement or a Romeo and Juliet enthusiast some romance, you may be better off choosing a Lord of the Rings fan.
People who read science fiction and fantasy are less like to agree with ‘unrealistic relationship beliefs’, the researchers found.
They say this could be because they are more open-minded and because many of the stories involve people whose characters change and adapt over time.
But the one unrealistic belief sci-fi readers slipped up on was that they could be more likely to expect perfect sex.
People who read science fiction or fantasy novels could be better romantic partners because they have a better grasp of people’s flaws and capacity for change, scientists suggest
Readers who prefer thrillers, romance or classic literature may have less grounded ideas about human relationships, the study suggests.
Some 404 people were studied – more than half of whom were women – and quizzed on their knowledge of books and their views on relationships.
To determine which types of books they read most, the people were asked to identify the names of authors who specialised in seven genres: classics, romance, fantasy, science fiction, suspense or thrillers, horror, or modern literary fiction.
They were then asked how much they agreed with five relationship beliefs the researchers considered unrealistic or unhelpful, Pacific Standard reports.
These were the belief that disagreement is destructive, that mindreading is expected, romantic partners cannot change as people, the sexes are different, and an expectation of sexual perfection.
‘Less likely to have unrealistic relationship beliefs’
The real secret to a happy marriage could be watching romantic comedy movies together and discussing them, according to scientists.
Researchers found in 2014 that couples who discussed five movies about relationships over a month cut the three-year divorce rate for newlyweds in half.
The study, involving 174 couples, was the first long-term investigation to compare different types of early marriage intervention programmes.
Published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the research showed that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach could be just as effective as therapy.
In the study it reduced the divorce or separation rate from 24 per cent to 11 per cent after three years.
Study author Dr Ronald Rogge, from University of Rochester in the US, said: ‘The results suggest that husbands and wives have a pretty good sense of what they might be doing right and wrong in their relationships.’
‘Individuals who scored higher for exposure to science fiction/fantasy were less likely to endorse four unrealistic relationship beliefs,’ said psychologist Stephanie Stern, who was involved with the research.
‘Romance is not the only written fiction genre to be associated with real-world beliefs about romantic relationships.’
Fans of science fiction and fantasy are the least likely, on average, to believe in four out of the five unhelpful beliefs.
But sci-fi readers may expect sexual perfection
But the one belief they are more likely to hold is an expectation of sexual perfection, the researchers found.
The scientists admit the results don’t prove that reading Game of Thrones makes someone a better partner – it could just be a coincidence.
But past research has suggested sci-fi fans have more flexible ideas of good and bad, and are more open-minded.
Readers might better understand a person’s ability to change
The idea of a hero’s journey in which they discover their power by going on a quest – for example Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings – could give readers a good understanding of people’s flaws and their capacity for change.
And they may apply this to their romantic partners, the researchers suggest.
The findings were published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
Scientists say people who read science fiction and fantasy novels are likely to make better romantic partners than people who read other types of books.
Here is a brief guide to some of the most popular fantasy and science fiction books ever written:
Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling (1997-2007)
Harry, a schoolboy from Surrey is shocked to find out he is a wizard and, after being enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he joins a band of friends to fight the darkest, most dangerous wizard ever known.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien (1954)
Frodo Baggins, a hobbit from Middle Earth, inherits a cursed gold ring from his uncle and goes on a quest to destroy it in a volcano in hellish Mordor – but entire armies of evil creatures are committed to standing in his way.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis (1950)
English siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are evacuated from London during World War II and their new house has a wardrobe which leads to a magical place called Narnia, where they meet a brave lion and a half-man half-goat.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Bernard Marx lives in a futuristic world where people are genetically modified and work to be paid in happiness pills to keep everyone obedient and fitting in the mould of society, but Bernard decides he’s not like the people around him.
The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells (1898)
Cylinders from space come crashing down in the English countryside and Martians appear and try to destroy humanity, as the British army fights back and an unnamed narrator tries to save his family and learn about the aliens.