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16 September 2011 @ 10:41 am
Why Romance Is More Popular Than Gen  
I periodically lament and wonder why romance is so overwhelmingly more popular than gen, when romance represents just one component of human experience, while gen encompasses all the other components.

Jesse Bering, evolutionary psychologist and Scientific American blogger, recently posted a sardonic and potentially enlightening contribution to that question.  "Listen Carefully: The Evolutionary Secret To Making a Hit Record" (08/30/11) discusses how "across music genres, the more 'embedded reproductive messages' [i.e. courtship, sex, procreation] a given song contained, the more likely it was to have become a smash hit."  That is, "Country songs averaged 5.96 reproductive messages per song, Pop had 8.69, and R&B a whopping 16.77 per song.  For all genres, however, and across a sixty-year history of the Billboard charts, the sheer number of reproductive messages in a song was meaningfully linked to that song's commercial success," even when controlling for the singer's popularity and skill.

Similarly, he reports that research analyzing newspapers in multiple cultures from the past three centuries shows consistently that:
[T]he hallmark of sensational news — what makes something particularly alluring to any readership — is its relevance to reproductive success in the ancestral past.  Most high-profile, front-page stories dealt with things such as altruism, reputation, cheaters, violence, sex, and the treatment of offspring.  In other words, argued these scientists, what whets our appetites in the social domain today are the very same gossipy topics of conversation that the first humans were probably gabbing about 150,000 years ago in sub-Saharan Africa.

The blog post includes a handy list of the 19 categories of "embedded reproductive messages" tracked and analyzed in the study.  Writers of romance, you may wish to refer to it. ;-)  They're almost like prompts, assuming that you have a preferred couple to which to apply them.

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chelseagirl on September 17th, 2011 10:24 am (UTC)
You know, I'm with you. There are so many aspects of human experience to explore that do not have to do with courtship rituals. Plus, we have an anniversary coming up soon and honestly? In some ways that aspect of my past is still very vivid, but in others . . . it feels a million miles away. I do have certain pairings that make me happy, but mostly, I'd just like to see stories about characters.
Amy R.: Caddybrightknightie on September 17th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
It often puzzles me, not that romance appeals, but rather how its massive appeal crowds everything else down into a tiny, cobwebby corner. :-) I read an exquisite Dead Poets Society gen piece recently, but its author had labeled it "pre-slash," apparently afraid that no one would read it if it were "just gen."

Bering, the SciAm blogger, of course sees through the filter of his field, evolutionary psychology, but it does seem a reasonably viable explanation for some readers' preferences. Stories contribute little to air, water, food or shelter. Next instinct up: sex.

Speaking specifically of fanfic, there's also always the division between those of us who read it to get more of what canon provided, and those who read it to get what canon did not provide.

(Happy upcoming anniversary. ~g~)