“By the time we’re young adults, we’ve all intuited it to some degree: people who’re ardent readers of fiction seem to have the ability to engage with others in a manner that is completely lost on non-readers. A teenage boy-girl sibling combo might evidence a situation where the boy, whose extra-curricular life is dominated by sports, finds himself completely lost as he watches his fiction-loving sister routinely blend in with ease with both older contemporaries and adults at family gatherings, even having the occasional poignant conversation with a great-aunt or grandmother.”
Why is it? Glad you asked:
“fiction-reading leads to one being more empathising and socially intelligent… reading fiction develops in one the ability to construct a map of the thoughts and feelings that are occurring in the minds of other people. This is what developmental psychologists refer to as ‘theory of mind’.
When one identifies with the emotions that are materialising in another person, it is called empathy, one of the core aspects of emotional intelligence…
fiction – and in particular narrative – is an exercise in empathy. In reading narrative, we join ourselves emotionally with the protagonist, in a manner experiencing his or her emotions as they navigate through the struggles in their lives. The overarching importance is in the fact that we, the reader, get to view situations from the articulated points-of-view of others.
Additionally, we lend ourselves to situations we have never yet experienced, understand the ways of people completely peculiar to us, and thus begin to acquire familiarity with such novelties that we may later face in life; novelties we would otherwise be helpless to understand except through one awkward effort at a time, usually exposing us to great friction with the unfamiliar environment first.In other words, reading provides us with: “the ability to sensitise…to the emotions of other people, transcending the limits of our own experiences and perspective”.