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Fiction & Social Perception

October 7, 2013

Reading literary fiction, more so than other types of books, improves performance at gauging others’ mental states.



Real benefits from fiction. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Jupiter Images)

Reading certain kinds of fiction can help you read people’s emotions in real life. This according to David Kidd and Emanuele Castano of the New School for Social Research. Their volunteers participated in a psychological test called Theory of Mind, in which they tried to gauge emotions from close-ups of someone else’s eyes. Kidd says that those who had just read literary fiction – with complex, ambiguous characters and storytelling – performed much better on the test than those who read plot-driven stories, non-fiction, or nothing at all.

What a great author does is pull us into a situation where we really have to use our capacity to understand other people to its fullest extent.

Kidd and Castano hope their work will be seen as concrete evidence that supporting literature in schools and in society at large has real benefits. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.