Can reading fiction cut selfishness, stop growth of mass-shooting psychopaths? One thing appears certain: reading fiction gives rise to empathy, and empathy leads to a more compassionate society.
“Schools don’t exist as job-training camps. They exist to educate students. To be truly educated, students need to graduate with more imagination, not less. They need to face questions about what it means to be a human being — they need to stop sleepwalking, if they’ve started it already — and they need to start learning how to love strangers. We all know that becoming properly educated is a lifelong endeavor. But Washington gives students a huge disadvantage if it leads them to think that memorizing data and processing facts is 70 percent of living well.”
“Based on the results of the post-reading exercises, Johnson concluded that the more immersed the readers were in the story, the more empathy they felt for the characters. In addition, he found that the heightened empathy led to an enhanced ability to perceive subtle emotional expressions such as fear or happiness. Individuals who experienced higher levels of empathy were also nearly twice as likely to engage in pro-social, or helpful, behavior as individuals experiencing low levels of empathy.”