I had a great vacation – I got out into nature, I slept in (some mornings when I wasn’t out looking for wildlife), and I even read a little bit. Turns out the reading was good for me in more ways than one; reading is not only relaxing, some studies find it improves empathy:
Shira Gabriel and Ariana Young, both from the psychology department at the University of Buffalo, gave 140 undergraduate students passages to read from either the Harry Potter series or the Twilight series. Afterward, the students were asked how much they related to the characters in the novels. Gabriel and Young found that despite the fact that both the stories rely heavily on otherworldly magic and mysticism, the undergrads felt a real affinity for the characters. “[T]he study found that participants who read the Harry Potter chapters self-identified as wizards, whereas participants who read the Twilight chapter self-identified as vampires,” they wrote. ”
And “belonging” to these fictional communities actually provided the same mood and life satisfaction people get from affiliations with real-life groups. Books provide the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from becoming a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment.”
Raymond Mar, a professor at York University, has also noticed the link between reading and empathy. In a study of children, Mar found that the more a child reads, the likelier she is to be able to understand the emotions of others.
Some of my reading wasn’t very empathy inducing, although that may be because I was reading the news rather than fiction.
What books do you recommend that may help with empathy? They don’t have to be empathic necessarily, just tell a good story about someone.
- Reading fiction ‘improves empathy’, study finds (guardian.co.uk)
- Stories, Empathy, and the Brain (eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.com)
- Fantasy Fiction Is Good For You (tothelastword.com)