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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Bowie’s List of Top 100 Books

18 (Free) Books Ernest Hem­ing­way Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intel­li­gent Per­son Should Read

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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