Fiction Fans

Good news, beach readers: Fiction may make you smarter, more empathetic

Research has shown reading makes us smarter; no surprise there. But a growing body of research is now suggesting that different types of reading have different effects, and that fiction in particular influences larger vocabularies and a greater knowledge base (even when education and intelligence levels are controlled). Fiction readers also appear to gain a little something extra: empathy. Keith Oatley, novelist and professor of cognitive psychology says, “fiction allows us to live many lives,” and to experience a multitude of human interactions that we may not otherwise encounter. When asked what someone was thinking or feeling based only on photos of the eyes, fiction readers performed better than non-fiction readers, offering further evidence of boosted empathy and social skills. Further studies are needed to examine these effects with digital reading and audiobooks. (USA Today, 07.31.2016)