Reading literary fiction can improve empathy, according to a new report from researchers at The New School in New York City.
To conduct the study, the research team which included social psychologist Emanuele Castano and PhD candidate David Kidd, they divided up reading assignments to the participants. Different participants read different genres of books. After the test, they were given tests designed to measure their ability to understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings. Interestingly, there was a significant difference in the responses between literary- and genre-fiction readers and literary fiction readers proved to be more empathetic.
The Scientific American has the story:
When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy.