This ain’t fiction folks! Readers of fiction are a special breed. They tend to be more empathetic toward others.
In an article on Mic, Gabe Bergado reports that a recent study by Emory University found that the brains of those who read fiction are different than those reading other genres — poetry, news, Tweets, and even literary junkies of the classics.
“Specifically, researchers found heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, part of the brain typically associated with understanding language. The researchers also found increased connectivity in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory region, which helps the brain visualize movement. When you visualize yourself scoring a touchdown while playing football, you can actually somewhat feel yourself in the action. A similar process happens when you envision yourself as a character in a book: You can take on the emotions they are feeling.”
It’s that last statement that should catch you eye: “You can take on the emotions they are feeling“.
It’s long been known that reading has some real benefits beyond the most obvious ones, but as a result of the study, it has been confirmed that there is more activity exhibited in certain areas of the brain than those who don’t read.
There’s a surprise in all of this however:
“It may sound hooey hooey, but it’s true: Fiction readers make great friends as they tend to be more aware of others’ emotions”.
There’s more to it that just that it would seem…
The Emory University study is just one of three that Gabe Bergado mentions in the full article on Mic.
One of the studies investigated “emotional transportation“.
Emotional transportation is apparently how sensitive people are to the feelings of others. In that study:
“…empathy was only apparent in the groups of people who read fiction and who were emotionally transported. Meanwhile, those who were not transported demonstrated a decrease in empathy.”
As for the third study, conducted by a couple of psychologists at the New School for Social Research, participants were divided into two groups, those who read a piece of literary fiction, and those who read popular fiction.
From that, facial emotions were identified solely through the eyes, resulting in the finding that “Those who read literary fiction scored consistently higher“. What they were scored on, well, that isn’t disclosed.
“We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple, Castano wrote to Mic.”
If you want a good friend, seek out one who reads fiction!
News to Share Brief source: Gabe Bergado’s article on Mic titled “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction”
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sources – page 1 image by Bonnybbx, page 2 image by stevepb, page 3 image by perronjeremie