Study Finds That Reading Tolstoy & Other Great Novelists Can Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

tolstoy social intelligence

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

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David Bowie’s List of Top 100 Books

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550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free

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Comments (7)
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  • SocraticGadfly says:

    Your top 10 books list is horrible.

  • Faze says:

    Have to agree with Birdies here — this does not qualify as unexpected.

  • Faze says:

    Have to agree with Birdies here — this does not qualify as unexpected.

  • nvst18 says:

    very cool to read as an English Lit major.

  • Guy Roberts says:

    I’ve always felt Tolstoy novels was required reading for astrologers. I didn’t care others didn’t feel the same way because reading them gave me a competitive edge over them. I’ve read War and Peace several times.

    Since a very young age I’ve been a big fan of classic literature. So it is very nice for me this article also gives a link to over 600 free eBooks of classical literature, including books written by Tolstoy.

    There really is no excuse for not having an education, especially in humanities, when there are so many treasures like the books listed here that can be read absolutely free.

    But as the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.

  • Tikam Das says:

    On the flip side – is it possible to have too much emotional intelligence? Intelligence is probably the wrong word but maybe too much empathy?

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