Oct 4, 2013
According to a new research, reading literary fiction results in improved performance on tests of emotional intelligence, empathy and social perception.
”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.
“This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.””
“Frankly, I agree with the study,” said Albert Wendland, who directs a master’s program in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. “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.”
”Ms. [Lousie] Erdrich, the author, said the study made her feel “personally cheered.”
“Writers are often lonely obsessives, especially the literary ones. It’s nice to be told what we write is of social value,” she said. “However, I would still write even if novels were useless.””
Read the full NYT blog piece here.