Reading Of Novels Stimulates Empathy And Emotional Intelligence
Literary fiction is, beyond a pleasure in itself, a way of getting to know ourselves and others through the imagination.
We often see campaigns promoting reading that portray the act of reading books as a new form of health: they look for children to read, for the elderly to read, and for people to read on public transportation, though not always for very clear purposes.
Reading seems a sanctified activity, one capable of producing miracles in people. Of course, reading helps us to relate to our places, to inform us about current events or to learn things we hadn’t known. But in this equation, what can the reading of literature serve, or more specifically, what is served by books like novels, poetry, or essays whose ultimate goal seems to be but the enjoyment of language?
According to a study published in the journal Science, reading fiction can develop empathy and emotional intelligence. In the point of view of the study’s authors, social psychologists, Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd, reading in and of itself isn’t capable of producing this miracle, but the reading of literary fiction is. Does a job interview make you nervous? Read some stories by Chekhov. Feel that you don’t communicate well with your boyfriend? Perhaps a few minutes of César Aira will broaden your horizons.
The findings were developed after the researchers paid a group of volunteers aged between 18 and 75 years. The volunteers were asked to read fragments of books for three minutes: one group read fragments from the novelist Don DeLillo. Another read non-fiction. A control group didn’t read anything.
The volunteers were then given the task of solving computerized tests which measured the ability of the subjects to decode or to empathize with the emotions of others in particular settings. The study then presented them with photos of eyes and asked them to assign one of four possible adjectives to describe what the eyes were feeling.
The researchers found that the group which read literary fiction got better results interpreting the gestures of complete strangers in photographs. Although some previous studies have shown that reading fiction could make people empathize more easily in the “real” world, this study further demonstrates that reading doesn’t in itself produce the effect, but that the reading of literature does.
In an increasingly dehumanized world, ever more subject to the logic of the market, reading literary fiction is also a way to maintain a healthy and vibrant imagination, beyond the benefits it may have for society on the levels of empathy and emotional intelligence. In reading the fictional lives of literary characters, we not only look at other ways of being and feeling, but we’re confronted with our own fears and hopes. It’s a way of knowing ourselves through the imaginations of others. We can easily conclude that the reading of literature is its own reward.
*Image: collage by Jaen Madrid
7 Recommendations for Organizing Your Library
For the true bibliophile, few things are more important than finding a book from within your library.
Red tea, the best antioxidant beverage on earth
Red tea is considered to be the most unusual of teas because it implies a consistently different preparation process. ––It is believed that its finding came upon surprisingly when traditional green
A brief and fascinating tour of the world's sands
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. - William Blake What are we standing on? The ground beneath our feet
Strengthen your memory with rosemary oil
For thousands of years rosemary oil has been traditionally admired and used due to its many properties. In the Roman culture, for example, it was used for several purposes, among them cleansing, as
Literature as a Tool to Build Realities
Alain de Botton argues that great writers are like lenses through which we can see an infinite array of possibilities.
Mandelbrot and Fractals: Different Ways of Perceiving Space
Mathematics has always placed a greater emphasis on algebra, a “purer” version of itself, one that is more rational at least. Perhaps like in philosophy, the use of a large number knotted concepts in
Luis Buñuel’s Perfect Dry Martini
The drums of Calanda accompanied Luis Buñuel throughout his life. In his invaluable memoirs, published under the Buñuel-esque title, My Last Sigh, an entire chapter is dedicated to describing a
A Brief Manual of Skepticism, Courtesy of Carl Sagan
Whether or not you’re dedicated to science, these tips to identify fallacies apply to any form of rigorous thinking.
How to Evolve from Sadness
Rainer Maria Rilke explored the possible transformations that sadness can trigger in human beings.
Alan Watts, A Discreet And Charming Philosopher Of The Spirit
British thinker Alan Watts was one of the most accessible and entertaining Western interpreters of Oriental philosophy there have been.