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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Literature Improves Thinking

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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 3:10 (Mar. 6-10)

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AP LITERATURE: Quarter 3 Reading ScheduleBeloved NotesMLA TemplateLiterary Criticism (Follow the link and use the links on the left for some guiding questions; for the analysis due on Tuesday, stick to the fairy tale and school of thought you pinned down in class last week.)

AP SEMINAR: AP Capstone Digital Portfolio, Doc. 6 (Thompson)PT2 Stimulus Materials & DirectionsStimulus Texts Theme Task

research databases: EBSCO Host, Gale Databases, JSTORGoogle Scholar; other credible research sources: The Atlantic, The Economist, EPA, ERIC, Nature, The New York Times,The New Yorker, Pew Research, Science DirectScientific American

Week 3:1 (Jan. 3-6)

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AP LITERATURE: Quarter 3 Reading Schedule, Quarter 3 Poetry PacketLit Notes Review OutlineMLA TemplateHeart of Darkness NotesHeart of Darkness Handout (for Journaling Inspiration)

AP SEMINAR: AP Capstone Digital PortfolioPT1 Guide & RubricsPT1 Team Form, Real-World Problems & Second Semester Grading ChangesImplicit Bias TestJSTOR SignupGroup Norms Assignment

research databases: EBSCO Host, Gale Databases, JSTORGoogle Scholar; other credible research sources: The Atlantic, The Economist, EPA, ERIC, Nature, The New York Times,The New Yorker, Pew Research, Science DirectScientific AmericanVice NewsRoom for Debate

Week 2:5 (Nov. 7-11)

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AP LITERATURE: Reading SchedulePoetry Response Packet, MLA Template

WATCHMEN: Turnitin Journal, Symbol SketchesNotes on the Graphic Novel and Postmodernism, The Doomsday Clock

AP SEMINAR: AP Capstone Digital Portfolio, Team Multimedia Presentation Checklist/Rubric and Oral Defense QuestionsMeme/Symbol Articles

research databases: EBSCO Host, Gale DatabasesGoogle Scholar; other credible research sources: The Atlantic, The Economist, EPA, ERIC, Nature, The New York Times,The New Yorker, Pew Research, Science Direct, Scientific American

Week 2:2 (Oct. 17-21)

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AP LITERATURE: Quarter Two Reading ScheduleHamlet Notes, ‘Reading Shakespeare’ Packet, Hamlet E-textSecond Quarter Poetry Response Packet, MLA TemplateMythology Review ListHamlet Essay Prompts

Hamlet Audioplay: Act I (≈:50), Act II (≈:37), Act III (≈:58), Acts IV-V (≈1:23)

AP SEMINAR: AP Capstone Digital Portfolio, MLA TemplatePurdue OWL (MLA), Citation Machine (MLA)Mock Performance Task #1PT1 Rubrics, Sample IRR

research databases: EBSCO Host, Gale DatabasesGoogle Scholarother credible research sources: The Atlantic, The Economist, EPA, ERIC, Nature, The New York Times,The New Yorker, Pew Research, Science Direct, Scientific American

Week 1:3 (Aug. 22-26)

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AP LITERATURE: Reading ScheduleJane Eyre Journal Directions & Turnitin Instructions, Sample JournalsJane Eyre E-text, Open Essay Rubric (for Siddhartha Essay)Poetry Packet, MLA Template, Jane Eyre Vocab. Assignment, Frankenstein Journal, Frankenstein E-textVisual Thesaurus, LitFinder (password for at-home use is pinellas)

AP SEMINAR: Course Syllabus, Mock Research Task, Line of ReasoningLenses HandoutPlagiarism NotesTurnitin Registration Instructions, MLA Template, Purdue OWLWorld Book Encyclopedia (username: pinellas, password: schools), Texting Drivers Packet

research databases: Gale Databases (password for at-home use is pinellas), Google Scholar, EBSCOhost (coming in September), JSTOR (coming in October)

Week 1:2 (Aug. 15-19)

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AP LITERATURE: Discussion PrepCourse Syllabus, Join the Remind GroupJane Eyre Journal Directions & Turnitin Registration Instructions, Sample JournalsJane Eyre E-textPoetry Packet, MLA Template, Jane Eyre Vocab. Assignment, First Quarter Reading ScheduleVisual Thesaurus, LitFinder (password for at-home use is pinellas)

AP SEMINAR: Seminar SurveyLenses HandoutPlagiarism NotesJoin A Day’s Remind Group, Join B Day’s Remind GroupLibrary Research Methods, Library Resources, Police/Robots PacketSPHS Photo TaskTurnitin.com Registration InstructionsTone Packet, Unit Topics SurveyCitation MachineWorld Book Encyclopedia (username: pinellas, password: schools)

research databases: Gale Databases (password for at-home use is pinellas), Google Scholar, EBSCOhost (coming in September), JSTOR (coming in October)

Week 4:9 (May 16-20)

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Seniors: Senior Research TaskHow to Determine Your Semester GradesAP Score CalculatorPlagiarism Notes10 Types of PlagiarismQuoting/Paraphrasing/SummarizingGrammarlyCitation Machine / MLA: Sample MLA PaperMLA GuideMLA Template.rtf / APA: Sample APA PaperAPA GuideAPA Template.rtf / Research: Gale (password: pinellas), Google Scholar

Freshmen: TKAM Journal Instructions, TKAM E-textTKAM Theme LogSAT Vocab #4, Wheel of Feels (Tone Words)Final Exam ScheduleHow to Determine Your Semester GradesExam Study GuideFinal Exam Schedule / Romeo and Juliet Essay: MLA TemplateEssay Prompt, Essay RubricThesis NotesThesis GuidelinesThesis GeneratorWriting About LiteratureE-textSample EssayHelp with Quote-WeavingHelp with Essay Writing

Week 1:2 (Aug. 31-Sept. 4)

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AP English Literature (Seniors): First Quarter Reading ScheduleCourse Syllabus, Discussion Prep, Jane Eyre Journal & Turnitin Registration InstructionsJane Eyre E-text, Jane Eyre Vocab Assignment, Frankenstein JournalPoetry Response Packet, MLA Template (for Poetry Responses), Plagiarism Notes, Siddhartha Essay RubricRemind for A-Day Class, Remind for B-Day Class

English 1 Honors (Freshmen): Course SyllabusFour QuestionsProofreading Expectations, Usage Notes, First Vocab. List & Presentation InstructionsJournal ExpectationsLiterature Terms, Theme Writing #1Remind for A-Day Classes, Remind for B-Day ClassesWeekly Learning Goal Self-Evaluation Scale (SL.910.5)