About 75% of you said you knew you were drawn to certain archetypes. The remainder were split evenly between people who weren't sure and those who like a wide range of characters depending on the individual show/actor/context. A similar number of you said you knew you were drawn to certain relationship patterns. Though among the remaining 25% of you, more were convinced that it depended on the individual relationship and context.
The next question was very interesting to me. 70 per cent of you said you'd thought about why you like certain characters and how it related to your own psychology--that number was higher than I'd expected (it implies greater self-reflection than the first question which is pretty much just 'do archetypes exist'). But then my readership is probably skewed towards introspective people anyway.
Around half of you say you're drawn to characters who are similar to you, but nearly thirty per cent of you say you're drawn to characters who are very unlike you, and 63% of you said that you had a mix, but your character archetype did reflect you or your values in some way. I'm intrigued by the thirty per cent who like characters very unlike you--mostly because that's largely not my own experience. From a quick scan, it looks like this group is split pretty evenly between people who identified as liking both characters like themselves and unlike themselves (fair enough! sounds like a fun mix!), and a small group who say they only like characters unlike themselves (several in this sub-group didn't tick the 'I've thought about it' option--maybe we're not as inclined to unless the characters remind us of ourselves?).
Slightly less of you said you'd thought about how the relationships you were attracted to reflected on your own psychology. But by far the most notable thing about this question was that far less people (17% as opposed to 46%) felt their own relationships were similar to the fictional 'ships they were drawn to. Again (no surprise!), the most popular choice was that they reflected your values in some ways but were unlike your own relationships in others. But the other options in that question rated very similar numbers to those in the equivalent character question. I would hesitantly suggest that this implies that we don't think as much about the relationships we're drawn to as the individual characters we like. Of course the underlying question that should be asked there is--do you identify as a character fan first and foremost, or as a shipper?
But perhaps there's also another layer to it. I know I found it a lot easier to see a pattern in the characters I liked than the fictional relationships I've been drawn to: until I really consciously traced through them. And I think many of us are more familiar with character archetypes than relationship patterns.
The question 'Do you distinguish between characters you 'fangirl/fanboy' and characters you identify with?' worked out really cutely, I think, with two thirds of people saying 'yes, of course' and one third saying 'no, not at all'.
Only one person thought thinking about these patterns was a waste of time (I heart you--you make my poll look more balanced! *g*) Most of you (65%) thought it was interesting, 22% of you prefer cheerful ignorance, and 27% of you thought it was sort of interesting but not very profound.
The next questions were abysmally constructed--I do apologise. They should have allowed you to choose more than one option, as several people pointed out. I would have chosen multiple options myself so, yes, my bad. However, some interesting points got made in the comments, with several people mentioning having personal insights about characters they disliked. That's an excellent point and one I should have considered. Only 10 per cent of you were certain you'd never had such a revelation and a good thirty per cent weren't sure (which probably just indicates that I needed to explain/give examples).
Since it became clear in comments that many of you who think about these things actively have had multiple revelations, it would have been far better to allow people to choose both negative, positive and neutral to describe these revelations. About half of you opted for the 'incidental/neutral' option, and most of the rest saw the revelations as positive. What became clear in the comments is that many people (myself included) saw the process of having a self-revelation as positive, regardless of how confronting the content was initially.
The final question was my sneaky way of asking if you read things into other people's preferences. As I suspected, most of you don't or find it hard to do so. In fact, 45% of you say you think people's preferences do reveal something but you don't always know what, and 48% of you said sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Another 10 per cent said 'nothing significant' and 35% of you thought it was only the case when someone was passionately attached to a character. The split seems to indicate a fair degree of fogginess around making assumptions about other peoples' preferences. Personally I like that because I don't think we should. I think only the individual in question can really trace why they like the characters and relationships they do and what that means to them. If it provides insight, yay, if not, no problem. Since a good quarter to a third of people reject the significance of archetypes or patterns to our preferences, springing to assumptions is (as always, really) very unwise.
I saved perhaps the most fascinating question until last: what makes you more likely to identify with a character? A whopping 80% of you said a particular personality trait! Wow! I really want to know which specific personality traits you find attractive now... *ponders follow-up poll* Following close behind was 'similar behaviour patterns/psychology to me'. I expected that option to poll well but not quite as well as it did. It's markedly higher than the number of people who say they like characters who are like them, which I find intriguing (if behaviour and psychology are like you, then what's unlike you about them? do you dismiss them as being unlike you simply because their lives are far more colourful/dramatic/imaginative?) The family background, likes/dislikes and looks options polled 26-28% each: interesting! So for significant minorities of us, those factors are important. I think there's a lot more that could be investigated in this area--clearly my poll only skimmed the surface.
What shone through in the comments is that some people love talking about these things--and talking openly--while others are (understandably) more shy, even if they do admit to having gained insights into themselves. I didn't want anyone to admit to anything they didn't want to, so I had kept my initial post very general, giving only a couple of scanty examples. However, I'm among the egoists who find discussing our insights productive or enjoyable. ;-) I found it particularly fascinating to hear how others defined the character archetype or relationship dynamic they were drawn to (sometimes we have slightly different takes on similar things and the way we phrase our preferences reveals something about what we individually draw from that character or relationship). It's a process and dialogue I find endlessly fascinating, so thanks for participating and please feel free to come and natter to me about it any time. :-)