Reading literature lessens stereotypes

“The benefits of reading literary fiction are many, ranging from making us morecomfortable with ambiguity to honing our ability to pick up on the emotional states of others. Newly published research adds yet another positive outcome to that list: It can make us at least a little less racist.”

“A research team from Washington and Lee University reports that, in an experiment, reading a snippet of a novel about a Muslim woman produced two welcome results. Readers were more likely to categorized people as mixed-race, rather than forcing them into specific racial categories. They were also less likely to associate angry faces with disliked outsider groups.”

“Recent research has found that when we observe perceived outsiders, our brains do less of the mental mirroring associated with empathy. As a result, we feel less connected to them than we do to members of our own tribe.”

“There is growing evidence that reading a story engages many of the same neural networks involved in empathy.”

“Perhaps narrative fiction can bridge this empathy gap,” the researchers, led by psychologist Dan Johnson, write in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.”

More: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/books-and-culture/reading-literary-fiction-can-make-less-racist-76155/

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