Reading literary fiction improves your social skills

Photo: Jemimus.
Photo: Jemimus.

Reading does help you form a better you. Your ability to “read” the thoughts and feelings of others could be affected by the kind of fiction you read. That may be because literary fiction tends to focus on the psychology and inner lives of the characters.

That’s the conclusion of a study in the journal Science that gave tests of social perception to people who were randomly assigned to read excerpts from literary fiction, popular fiction or nonfiction.

On average, people who read parts of more literary books like The Round House by Louise Erdrich did better on those tests than people who read either nothing, read nonfiction or read best-selling popular thrillers like The Sins of the Mother by Danielle Steel.

For example, folks who were assigned to read highbrow literary works did better on a test called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes,” which required them to look at black-and-white photographs of actors’ eyes and decide what emotion the actors were expressing.

So, basically, through reading fiction, you may actually improve your social skills.

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