Literature Improves Empathy


Have you ever felt that reading a good book makes you better able to connect with your fellow human beings? If so, the results of a new scientific study back you up, but only if your reading material is literary fiction – pulp fiction or non-fiction will not do.

Great Expectations from great literature … empathy occurs in the spaces between characters, such as Joe and Pip, pictured here in the 2012 film adaptation. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex Features

Empathy occurs in the spaces between characters, such as Joe and Pip in Great Expectations, pictured here in the 2012 film adaptation. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex Features

Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.

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14 Words You Need to Know

Below is a table containing the words that make all the difference in a competent user of English, because according to James I. Brown, Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Minnesota, in his book Programmed Vocabulary, they contain the twenty most useful prefixes and the fourteen most important roots in our language. These constituent parts make up over 14,000 words in a collegiate dictionary size or close to an estimated 100,000 words in an unabridged dictionary. In other words, you should know these words and understand why they mean what they mean since doing so will grant you a superior vocabulary.  Click it for a slightly larger view.

 

Literature Improves Thinking

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little-girl-reading-book

Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.

Fortunately, new research suggests a simple antidote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.

A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.

“Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”

Djikic and her colleagues describe an experiment featuring 100 University of Toronto students. After arriving at the lab and providing some personal information, the students read either one of eight short stories or one of eight essays. The fictional stories were by authors including Wallace Stegner, Jean Stafford, and Paul Bowles; the non-fiction essays were by equally illustrious writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Stephen Jay Gould.

Afterwards, each participant filled out a survey measuring their emotional need for certainty and stability. They expressed their agreement or disagreement with such statements as “I don’t like situations that are uncertain” and “I dislike questions that can be answered in many different ways.” Continue reading

Week 4:8 (May 7-11)

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Pre-IB English 2: Macbeth E-text, “Reading Shakespeare”Theme LogA3-4 RolesB3-4 RolesC3-4 Roles, Suggested Open Prompts for MacbethWeaving & Citation GuideProofreading ExpectationsThesis GeneratorThesis NotesOutline FormTransitions ToolboxFinal Exam ScheduleTheme Reflection #2, Semester Grade ChartExam Study Guide

AP Literature: Past Open Essay PromptsSuggested Works for Open EssayAP Lit TermsAP Score Calculator, Major Works Data Sheet (2018)MWDP (2017)MWDP (2016)MWDP (2015)MWDP (2014)MWDP (2013)

Week 4:7 (Apr. 30-May 4)

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Pre-IB English 2:  Macbeth E-text, “Reading Shakespeare” PacketTheme LogA3-4 RolesB3-4 RolesC3-4 Roles, Suggested Open PromptsQuotation Weaving & Citation GuideProofreading ExpectationsThesis GeneratorThesis NotesProof-of-Concept Outline Form (Unofficial)Transitions Toolbox & Elaboration/Analysis StartersTheme Reflection #2, Semester Grade ChartFinal Exam Study GuideFinal Exam Schedule (for IB students)

AP Literature: Major Works Data Sheet TemplatePast Open Essay PromptsSuggested Works for Open EssayAP Lit TermsAP Score CalculatorMajor Works Data Packet (2017)MWDP (2016)MWDP (2015)MWDP (2014)MWDP (2013)