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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