Reading fiction creates better society

“200 subjects read a five-page fictional short story written specifically for the experiment, designed to elicit compassionate feelings for the characters and model pro-social behavior. The subjects then participated in exercises to measure the impact of the reading.

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.

“An interesting component is that it really seemed to be a lot about the imagery and visualizing the face of the main character and the events they experienced,” said Johnson. “Those who experienced more inherent imagery were more likely to develop empathy for the characters and be more helpful.”

More: http://news.blogs.wlu.edu/2012/02/21/washington-and-lee-professor-finds-that-reading-fiction-leads-to-empathy-helpful-behavior/

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