A new study published this week in Science concludes that you may get something unexpected from reading great literary works: more finely-tuned social and emotional skills. Conducted by Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd (researchers in the psych department at the New School for Social Research), the study determined that readers of literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction or non-fiction) find themselves scoring better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. In some cases, it took reading literary fiction for only a few minutes for test scores to improve.
The New York Times has a nice overview of the study, where, among other things, it features a quote by Albert Wendland, an English professor at Seton Hall, who puts the relationship between literature and social intelligence into clear terms: “Reading sensitive and lengthy explorations of people’s lives, that kind of fiction is literally putting yourself into another person’s position — lives that could be more difficult, more complex, more than what you might be used to in popular fiction. It makes sense that they will find that, yeah, that can lead to more empathy and understanding of other lives.”
If you’re looking to increase your ability to navigate complex social situations — and have a pleasurable time doing it — then grab a good book. One place to start is with our recent post: The 10 Greatest Books Ever, According to 125 Top Authors (Download Them for Free). Or simply dive into our collection of 500 Free eBooks, which includes many great classics.
via Peter Kaufman, mastermind of The Intelligent Channel