Thursday, October 26, 2006

The perfect excuse to read!

Totally indebted to Bibliobibuli for pointing me to this article.

According to the British Psychological Society ( BPS), The more fiction a person reads, the more empathy they have and the better they perform on tests of social understanding and awareness. By contrast, reading more non-fiction, fact-based books shows the opposite association.

The more authors of fiction that a participant recognised, the higher they tended to score on measures of social awareness and tests of empathy – for example being able to recognise a person’s emotions from a picture showing their eyes only, or being able to take another person’s perspective. Recognising more non-fiction authors showed the opposite association.

The researchers surmised that reading fiction could improve people’s social awareness via at least two routes – by exposing them to concrete social knowledge concerning the way people behave, and by allowing them to practise inferring people’s intentions and monitoring people’s relationships. Non-fiction readers, by contrast, “fail to simulate such experiences, and may accrue a social deficit in social skills as a result of removing themselves from the actual social world”.

However, a weakness of the study is that the direction of causation has not been established – it might simply be that more empathic people prefer reading novels.

Wow, now if that's not the perfect excuse to read, I don't know what is! ;) I tend to read an equal number of non-fiction and fiction books - just hope that means I'm balanced!


23 comments:

beenzzz said...

Lotus, That is a perfect reason to read!!! I am guilty of not reading enough. I really need to find a few good books (that you have recommended of course) ;) and read them.

Lotus Reads said...

Beenzzz, just make sure you don't pick the non-fiction ones! ;) Fancy, being able to tell whether a person is empathetic or not just based on whether he is a fiction or non-fiction reader! :)

piksea said...

There is a study out there to prove or disprove anything you'd like. Since I'm not sure if any of them can be trusted (money hungry grant whores shilling opinions for profit, mostly), I vote that you pick the ones you like and run with them.

I, for one, will jump on the results of any study that is complimentary to readers!

jenclair said...

:0 Cause or effect? Even if we know that more empathetic people read fiction, wouldn't encouraging non-empathetic readers to read be a great study -- and I bet there would be a positive result. Thanks, Lotus, this is interesting and encouraging.

Beloved dreamer said...

Don't worry my dear, you are more then balanced. Since I read mostly fiction, I guess that explains why I cry so much.lol
I also wanted to comment on the readings you went to. How lucky you are to live where you do. I guess if I had the freedom to go to the city(NYC) I would find all these things.JB ( my Hub) & friend are always going to art movies.
Keep up the great reviews for those of us who love them!

love-bd

booklogged said...

Lotus, this is my test comment.

booklogged said...

Quite an interesting article. Do you suppose that's the trouble with our world today? All the sensitive, empathetic people are home reading and the others are making war. LOL

Bookfool said...

I love it! And, it certainly fits. My husband is severely lacking in empathy (he was told this by several psychologists who reviewed tests he took for a management seminar - one made the hilarious comment, "This is probably a problem for you at home") and he reads mostly non-fiction. My kids and I are are almost too empathic and we are fiction fools!

Saaleha said...

I am a certified fiction junkie. I rarely ever read non fiction. It just doesn't grab my attention. And I prefer
wr
iting fiction too. So I'm not balanced - at all. But this was a very interesting article.

Gaijin Mama said...

If only I could get my husband to read fiction...

Lotus Reads said...

piksea Quite an interesting article, isn't it? But do you think it generalises too much? After all, there are so many sub-genres in fiction and non-fiction. For instance, a lot of my non-fiction reading tends to include narrative journalism which although is rooted in facts, reads like a story...

Jenclair I think they are using the results of this study to help non-empathetic kids and adults alike. I find I am wanting to know more about the study. Will try to research it in detail, later

booklogged Happy to have you back. I am toying with the idea of removing the word verification feature...just hope that doesn't attract too much spam. And true, more of us should sit home reading, the world would be a better place! :)

bookfool LOL, most men tend to prefer nonfiction and certainly, many come across as a lot less empathetic than most women, so at first glance there does appear to be some truth to this study!

Saaleha You bring up an interesting point - this study studied readers, but what about writers of those respective genres, would they get the same results I wonder?

gaijin mama Don't we all, don't we all? ;)

sasgirl said...

I sent this article to my husband as he's another non-fiction reader and totally is lacking in empathy.

The direction of causation may not have been identified but for us, it's certainly is true!

Lotus Reads said...

haha, hope he doesn't ask you for the source, he may put a block on my blog on your PC! ;)

Just kidding! Knowing T., he will probably be quite amused! :)

Beloved dreamer said...

Thanks for stopping by Lotus and reading what I think is a great poem. Sadness comes and goes in all our lives.
Also I had wanted to tell you how great it is that you won the book from Hindu Mommy. I am sure it will give you the support you need in keep your culture alive in your girls. I think I will visit her blog. Thanks

love-bd

Angela in Europe said...

I think everyone knows this, on some level, because why else would we read fiction? It is a great emotional outlet and I think it makes us "smarter" emotional because we are looking for that through books. Anyway, I just think people who are smart anyway :)!

hellomelissa said...

you just made my day with that article! i'll feel it's a more worthwhile endeavor now to curl up with a book and a mug of hot tea. i'm improving myself! really!

now tell me, how many points do i get for reading while on the elliptical trainer for 30 minutes this am?

Library Lady said...

I respectfully don't agree.

I've read many a memoir, biography, and true adventure to know empathy can be found in them, too.

Holocaust survivor stories have a way of making me weep all the time. Anyone else?

Maggie ;-)

Lotus Reads said...

I agree Maggie, this study is just a little too general for my liking!

Dawn said...

I know a lot of people who don't have much empathy for others that read fiction. I do think that it probably helps though. I agree with the Library Lady though, I read a lot of travel books and I enjoy the ones where they author makes you feel something for the country and the people they are interacting with!

Dawn

a.c.t said...

That's really interesting. If that's the case then I have complete social understanding and awareness. Hmmm.

I'm a bit sceptical though. They're saying that it improves the above "by exposing (people) to concrete social knowledge concerning the way people behave, and by allowing them to practise inferring people’s intentions and monitoring people’s relationships." It doesn't make sense because fiction is fiction right? Therefore surely reading non-fiction exposes people to "concrete knowledge concerning the way people behave".

I'm leaning towards the idea that more empathic people prefer reading novels, but I'm not quite sure how that would work either.

Angela in Europe said...

Ok, I just re-read my comment and apparently reading does not make me smarter because I meant to say, "Anyway, I just think people who read are smarter anyway."

By the way Lotus, every time I read a good book I feel like telling you about it, but then I realize you have probably read everything already.

Lotus Reads said...

Dawn, Angela and act thank you for your comments and your insights - I just hope this study won't put people off reading non-fiction!

Angela I don't read as much as I used to - I can't seem to find the time :((( I would so appreciate you sharing a good read with me, please go right ahead!

The Traveller said...

Interesting extract - I've always wondered if reading so much made me more empathetic to people (just becasue sometimes I think I seem to be, or am more empathetic than a lot of other people). I wonder if watching films has the same effect? Certain types of films, anyway - I'm not thinking of Mr and Mrs Smith or anything, obviously!