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Literary fiction makes you empathetic, a study finds

LiteraryIt’s proven now that reading a literary fiction makes us better, since a literary book helps us understand others better. A study has found this. Following the Guardian news which says that Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, of the New School for Social Research in New York, found that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.

They conducted five experiments where they gave texts to read, either popular fiction such as bestsellers or literary books, to about 1000 participants. The researchers then used a number of different Theory of Mind techniques to measure how accurately they could identify emotions in others. People who read literary fiction scored consistently higher than those who read bestsellers or pulp texts.

Kidd and Castano have published their paper in Science. They have also made distinctions between ‘writerly’ and ‘readerly’ texts which was first made by Roland Barthes in his book on literary theory, The Pleasure of the Text.

As quoted in the Guardian newspaper, Kidd says, “Some writing is what you call ‘writerly’, you fill in the gaps and participate, and some is ‘readerly’, and you’re entertained. We tend to see ‘readerly’ more in genre fiction like adventure, romance and thrillers, where the author dictates your experience as a reader. Literary [writerly] fiction lets you go into a new environment and you have to find your own way.”

Read the full article.

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