Recent study finds the quality of your reading affects your social skills.
According to a study recently published in Science, reading literary fiction may improve your social skills. According to Pam Belluck in the New York Times: “The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.” Belluck continues:
The researchers — Emanuele Castano, a psychology professor, and David Comer Kidd, a doctoral candidate — found that people who read literary fiction scored better than those who read popular fiction. This was true even though, when asked, subjects said they did not enjoy literary fiction as much. Literary fiction readers also scored better than nonfiction readers — and popular fiction readers made as many mistakes as people who read nothing.
The study’s methodology was straightforward enough: Have one group read a few minutes of Don DeLillo and have another read bestsellers or even non-fiction. The subjects were then given a series tests that gauged their abilities to decode emotions or social cues.
So why does it work? Seton Hall University’s Albert Wedlund offers this:
Reading sensitive and lengthy explorations of people’s lives, that kind of fiction is literally putting yourself into another person’s position — lives that could be more difficult, more complex, more than what you might be used to in popular fiction. It makes sense that they will find that, yeah, that can lead to more empathy and understanding of other lives.
Does this mean you need to put down the Patterson or the Clancy? Of course not, just mix in a little Vonnegut or Hemingway now and then. Think of it as a workout for your empathy muscles.
photo State Library of Victoria Collections/Flickr