Reading Ficition Makes Us Nicer And More Empathic

There are countless benefits to reading books.

Reading is mentally stimulating, reduces your stress, increases your knowledge of various subjects, improves your memory, and can give you stronger analytical thinking skills. Now, according to a study published in 2016, it’s believed that reading fiction can make you more empathic and a kinder person.

The study itself is somewhat controversial. Scientists are not clear on how it is that reading changes our brains, and they’re not necessarily agreed on the idea that reading even does change your brain.

But the research is bringing into focus more and more evidence that reading fictional genres of literature, like science fiction and romance novels, improves your ability to feel the emotions of others.

There has been considerable pushback on these studies over the years, so David Dodell-Feder, a University of Rochester Psychologist, sought to clarify the results of these studies with a meta-analysis. He reviewed 14 studies that examined the topic of reading fiction and empathy. His findings may put the naysayers eat ease.

Compared to nonfiction reading and no reading, fiction reading leads to a small, statistically significant improvement in social-cognitive performance,” writes Dodell-Feder.

Dodell-Feder’s findings seem to indicate that reading can have a significant impact on your cognition, your empathy, and your overall levels of kindness, though he admits that more research on the subject is needed.

“This effect is robust across sensitivity analyses and does not appear to be the result of publication bias. We recommend that in future work, researchers use more robust reading manipulations, assess whether the effects transfer to improved real-world social functioning, and investigate mechanisms.”

What other benefits do readers enjoy?

Reduced stress levels.

Letting yourself get lost in a good book seems to completely remove feelings of stress and anxiety that come from work or home life. Sending your imagination to fictional realms can help you forget problems you’re facing in your daily life.

An expanded vocabulary.

The more you read, the larger your vocabulary is bound to become. If you want to power up your new vocab skills, stop and look up each word you don’t immediately know how to define. Having a robust vocabulary can help you in numerous areas of life, be it personal or professional. Having a large vocabulary gives you the confidence you need in order articulate your thoughts effectively.

Improved memory.

Each new memory you create is reinforced by a new synapse in the brain. Synapses are the pathways created that allow your neurons to communicate with one another. Every time you read a book, you need to remember numerous details, like character names, professions, and different parts of the plot. Think of it like a workout for your brain!

No matter which way you slice it or how skeptical you are of the science, reading can only provide positive benefits.

If you’ve got a book on your shelf that you’ve been meaning to read, grab it and flip to page one!

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