It may have sold 100 million copies around the world but apparently erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey is a flop when it comes to pleasuring readers – at least according to an experiment by behavioural psychologists.
Researchers who assessed the emotional feelings, body language, and heart rate of female volunteers found that the participants found a cookery book by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver more enjoyable than EL James’s bondage blockbuster.
The experiment was designed to see what really makes a good read when all the marketing hype is stripped away.
Extracts from different genres of books, including thrillers, romantic fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction and erotica, were read by the 50 participants who had an average age of 35.
The most enjoyable genre proved to be “romantic suspense”, with a “positive engagement” score of 83%.
In contrast, Fifty Shades Of Grey, representing erotica, produced the lowest score of 52%, and was trumped by Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals (55%).
Consultant behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, who devised the tests, said: “This experiment finally answers the long-debated question about whether to trust your heart or your head, with heart prevailing when choosing the perfect summer read.
“By looking at the difference between conscious enjoyment and sub-conscious enjoyment we have identified ‘romantic suspense’ as the most enjoyable type of literature, keeping readers interested and immersed with elements of surprise, whilst softening any lasting feelings of anxiety with moments of passion and romance.”
Volunteers’ body language responses including blink rate, fidgeting, sitting position and facial expression were noted by the psychologists.
Pulse rate was also measured to provide an indication of stress and anxiety.
In addition, participants were asked to answer questions about their emotional reaction to what they had read.
Romantic suspense came top of the “most enjoyable” genre list as measured by physiological indicators with a score of 83%.
This was followed by thriller (74%), sci-fi and fantasy (60%), non-fiction (55%) and romance/erotica (52%).
The research was commissioned by publishers Little Brown Book Group to mark the launch of Obsession, a new novel by Nora Roberts.