Readers of Literary Fiction are better at Mind-Reading

“When we read a thrilling-but-predictable bestseller, “the text sort of grabs us and takes us on a roller-coaster ride,” “and we all sort of experience the same thing.” Literature, on the other hand, gives the reader a lot more responsibility. Its imaginary worlds are full of characters with confusing or unexplained motivations. There are no reliable instructions about whom to trust or how to feel.”

Researchers suspect “that the skills we use to navigate these ambiguous fictional worlds serve us well in real life. In particular” they “surmised that they enhance our so-called theory of mind. That’s the ability to intuit someone else’s mental state—to know, for example, that when someone raises their hand toward us, they’re trying to give us a high-five rather than slap us. It’s closely related to empathy, the ability to recognize and share the feelings of others.”

“Increasing evidence supports the relationship between reading fiction and theory of mind. But much of this evidence is based on correlations: Self-reported avid readers or those familiar with fiction also tend to perform better on certain tests of empathy, for example.”

From: news.sciencemag.org

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