Magazine article Work & Family Life

Reading Fiction Offers Unexpected Benefits

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Reading Fiction Offers Unexpected Benefits

Article excerpt

People who read a lot of fiction score higher on tests of empathy than do readers of nonfiction, according to two recent studies reported in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Through fiction, we learn about people, says psychologist Raytoohd Mar of the University of Toronto, lead author of both studies. We empathize with characters who are different from us, and this helps us to understand the real people we meet.

Lisa Zunshine of the University of Kentucky, author of Why We Read Fiction, suggests that reading novels can actually help us "read minds." That is, we have to constantly guess what a character is thinking and feeling, who's lying, who's telling the truth-and what's really going on in someone's mind. The best fiction, she says, also makes life more interesting and can change the way we think and act. …

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