Fiction readers feel more

Reading novels makes you more empathetic.

A study showed participants pictures of people’s eyes and asked them what those people were feeling. Those who read novels were better able to judge what they were feeling.

At the Princeton Social Neuroscience Lab, psychologist Diana Tamir demonstrated that people who often read fiction have better social cognition. In other words, they’re more skilled at working out what other people are thinking and feeling.

Using brain scans, she found that while reading fiction, there is more activity in parts of the default mode network of the brain that are involved in simulating what other people are thinking.

Participants assigned to read a fictional story showed increased levels of affective empathy, but only when highly transported.

Participants assigned to read a piece of non-fiction showed no increase in empathy.

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