Reading Literature


Michael Brannigan: Literature and the arts can help us resuscitate empathy | Empathy and Compassion | Scoop.it
Girl Reading (1889), by Fritz von Uhde.  
"The most important characteristic of being human is that our lives are social. What's distinctive about humans is that we make social arrangements with other people - with friends, with lovers, with children - that aren't pre-programmed by instinct. Fiction can augment and help us understand our social experience." Keith Oatley




Reading Fuels Empathy. Do Screens Threaten That?
By Sydney Johnson
Feb 18, 2019
Reading Fuels Empathy. Do Screens Threaten That?
Reading changes our brains. Beyond allowing humans to gather and synthesize new information, research shows it is key to cultivating empathy in individuals, too. One study finds this to be particularly true for fictional stories, which allow readers to imagine themselves as other people, in other worlds, with different ideas and challenges.




Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy:
Ruling out individual differencesand examining outcomes

RAYMOND A. MAR, KEITH OATLEY and JORDAN B. PETERSON
Abstract
Readers of fiction tend to have better abilities of empathy and theory of mind (Mar et al., 2006). We present a study designed to replicate this finding, rule out one possible explanation, and extend the assessment of social outcomes. In order to rule out the role of personality, we first identified Openness as the most consistent correlate. This trait was then statistically controlled for, along with two other important individual differences: the tendency to be drawn into stories and gender. Even after accounting for these variables, fiction exposure still predicted performance on an empathy task. Extending these results, we also found that exposure to fiction was positively correlated with social support. Exposure to nonfiction, in contrast, was associated with loneliness, and negatively related to social support.



Reading Literary Fiction Expands Empathy – Making Empathy Present for the Reader
BY LOU AGOSTA on JUNE 30, 2018 

"Time was when it was a bold statement of the obvious that reading a good book expands one’s empathy. It’s summer in the city of Chicago. People are going to the beach, the park, leaving town for the wilderness or Paris, and destinations of the imagination and mind. Whether audio book or hard copy, don’t leave home without – a compelling read."



Reading During Childhood Develops Empathy, Improves Physical Health And Has Other Benefits
Apr 12, 2018
 By Sadhana Bharanidharan
Childhood Reading
"Fiction develops a sense of empathy
Psychology research has suggested reading stories gives children the opportunity to spend time inside someone else's mind and place themselves in the shoes of characters. They are also likely to be exposed to different kinds of people, places, cultures, and situations which open their mind to the importance of diversity."



Literature Boosts the Brain and Empathy
Contact:
Lauren Fowler, psychology professor
Sally Shigley, English professor
Author: Amy Renner Hendricks,

"In addition, reading literature is a good way to elicit empathy, a subject that Fowler and Shigley teamed up to study several years ago. During their research on empathy, Fowler and Shigley used Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” about a woman being treated for stage-four cancer. The story directly addresses the issue of empathy."



Why you — yes, you — should read fiction for fun
By Sarah Riback
 October 30, 2017

"In a 2011 Scientific American Mind article, psychologist Keith Oatley explored how reading fiction helps readers understand people. "The process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person's point of view," he writes. "The emotional empathy that is critical to our day-to-day relationships also enables us to picture ourselves living as the characters do when we read fiction."



Science Says You Should Add More Fiction Books to Your Summer Reading List: Build your empathy muscle
By Rohini Venkatraman
JUN 20, 2017

"Build your empathy muscle
A number of research studies have shown that when we read about depictions of smell, touch, and movement, we use the same parts of our brain as when we experience these sensory stimulations ourselves. Taking the research further, a York University psychologist found significant overlap in brain regions activated to understand stories and those used to interact with other individuals."



Empathy? Not in my book
The fashionable idea that reading novels could improve students’ fellow feeling bears little scrutiny, says Seán Williams
June 8, 2017
By Seán Williams

"Empathising with the plight of so many of those sorry literary protagonists, readers called for social change. Worse still, they fell in love.  

Flick through to today and, once again, the argument that reading novels is an exercise in empathy is everywhere. Except now it is a virtue, not a vice. In his recent book The Empathy Instinct: How to Create a More Civil SocietyPeter Bazalgette, former head of the Arts Council, wrote that art makes us more empathetic, kinder, civilised. And, in Times Higher Education, Peter Taylor-Gooby has told us that literature engenders what he calls “empathetic trust”. Serious novels should be read by students on all degree courses, he says, enhancing their training for the uncertain world into which they will embark as graduates. Page-turners from the literary canon will enable undergraduates to feel the perils of social reality, Taylor-Gooby implies, while textbooks can only teach them to understand them....  But please: I’ve had enough of the empathy argument."



People who read books are more friendly, empathetic
May 07, 2017

"In some good news for bookworms, scientists have found that people who regularly read fiction novels are more likely to be friendly, well-behaved and sympathetic towards others. Those who prefer watching television over reading are less sociable, according to the study.


Those who like reading of drama and romance novels were best able to understand other people, while those who prefered experimental books showed more positive social behaviour and ability to see things ..

"The findings support previous evidence that exposure to fiction relates to a range of empathetic abilities," said Rose Turner, from Kingston University in the UK. "




Teach Empathy With Literature
Christina Gil
02/14/2017


"When I think about my highest goal as a teacher, it is to help create responsible citizens who take care of each other and their world. And the best way that I can help form human beings who do good is to teach them empathy. I’d like to think that the ability to understand and share the feelings of others is something that everyone is born with, but I also think that it is important enough to be explicitly taught just in case."




EMPATHYLAB
We are incubating an empathy, literature and social action programme for 4-11 year olds.
2017


"We aim to make a real difference to thousands of children’s lives, story by story. Our brains are plastic, and with practice 98% of us are capable of becoming more empathetic. A growing bank of neuroscience research shows that literature is a key tool. Our work is inspired and underpinned by the research showing that relating imaginatively to book characters builds real-life empathy skills..... In today’s divided world, the need for more empathy has never been more urgent. Helping children put empathy into action will reduce prejudice, and build a more caring society. The UK’s shocking post-Brexit rise in hate crimes has highlighted the urgency of educating children to enter into other people’s feelings




The power of stories to build empathy
21 FEB 2017


“With the post-Referendum rise in hate crimes and alarming developments in America, the question of how we raise our children to be open minded, caring citizens suddenly seems much more pressing. Now more than ever our children need the life skill of empathy. Surely the time has come for our education systems to focus less on rugged individualism and personal success, and more on qualities which emphasise co-operation and our common humanity? Empathy is not a fluffy thing. Without it a child will struggle to form strong relationships or understand people different from themselves. Later, in the workplace, they will find team-working very hard."



Fiction has significant role in social emotional learning
Ongoing research shows reading fiction can help individuals develop 'theory of mind'
Tara García Mathewson
Jan. 4, 2017

"A 2013 study by Harvard University researchers and Joseph Coulson, president of the Great Books Foundation, found study participants who immersed themselves in the mental life of fictional characters performed better on theory of mind tasks. While researchers stopped short of claiming causation, they theorized about how reading fiction could improve such ability  (Dodell-Feder + 2013)


New Lecture Series Focuses On Building Empathy Through Books
By GABBIE WATTS 
 JAN 6, 2017
Professor Pearl McHaney with Georgia Center For The Book is hosting a new lecture and reading series, starting on Jan. 11.
"2016 kaleidoscoped into a rough year for many, and that was in part the inspiration for an upcoming reading and lecture series called “Connecting Lines: Building Empathy Through Literature.” The series includes five lectures at the Georgia Center for the Book at Decatur Library by Professor Pearl McHaney, who teaches southern literature at Georgia State."




2016


Does reading fiction make you a better person?
By Sarah Kaplan
July 22, 2016 - washingtonpost.com

"But the second half of the study suggested that stereotype is unfair, Oatley said. The participants were then scored on Interpersonal Reactivity Index, which is designed to measure empathy, and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, which gauges ability to interpret the mental states of others by asking people to associate pictures of actors' eyes with an emotion...

But the past decade and a half has seen a shift in that trend. In 2000, Jemeljan Hakemulder at Utrecht University in Germany published "The Moral Laboratory," a book outlining the results of almost two dozen experiments that linked reading to better social skills. A 2013 study in the American Psychological Association's journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts found that the process of imagining scenes while reading led to an increase in empathy and prosocial behavior. Raymond Mar, a psychologist who co-authored the 2006 study with Oatley, has found that the parts of the brain used for inferring thoughts and feelings of others — a phenomenon called "mentalizing" — light up in an MRI machine when people are processing stories." 
(Oatley 2016)

  

Fiction And Empathy (audio)
 Sep 27, 2016 
Audio: Fiction And Empathy | Empathy and Compassion | Scoop.it

"Want to foster empathy? Give someone a good work of fiction. Matt Galloway spoke with Keith Oatley, he is a professor of applied psychology at University of Toronto."



Empathy by the Book: How Fiction Affects Behavior
By 
SUSAN PINKER   
wsj.com 
Not all genres have the same effect, research shows
Nov 11, 2016


(Halonen, Pekka - Children reading)
"In 2006, a study led by University of Toronto psychologists Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar connected fiction-reading with increased sensitivity to others. To measure how much text the readers had seen in their lifetimes, they took an author-recognition test—a typical measure for this type of study. “The more fiction people read, the better they empathized,” was how Dr. Oatley summarized the findings. The effect didn’t hold for nonfiction. Still, no one knew whether reading fiction fostered empathy or empathy fostered an interest in fiction. Other factors could have been at play too, like personality."



How fiction might improve empathy
Author:  Honor Whiteman
 20 July 2016
[A woman reading a sad story]

"There's nothing quite like becoming immersed in a good fiction novel; for many readers, it is a way of fueling the imagination, providing a period of escape from the more laborious aspects of daily life. But in a new review, one psychologist claims fiction may be more beneficial than we realize: it has the ability to encourage empathy. In the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Keith Oatley, of the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, Canada, discusses how fiction may impact a person's social skills."




Does reading fiction make you a better person?
Author:  Sarah Kaplan
July 22, 2016


"When we read about other people, we can imagine ourselves into their position and we can imagine it's like being that person," Oatley said. "That enables us to better understand people, better cooperate with them."

In 2006, Oatley helped conduct a study that linked reading fiction to better performance on empathy and social acumen tests. Participants were first tested on their ability to recognize author names — a decent proxy for figuring out how many books they read and what kind."



Literature and the arts can help us resuscitate empathy
Author:  Michael Brannigan
 May 26, 2016
Michael Brannigan: Literature and the arts can help us resuscitate empathy | Empathy and Compassion | Scoop.it
Girl Reading (1889), by Fritz von Uhde.  

"How can we resuscitate empathy? Empathy cannot be taught; it can only be lived through. One critical path lies in the humanities, arts and natural sciences. Hence the immense value of reading. Through literature, history, etc., we get into the world and mindset of others. Literature and arts sting us into the grime of human frailty. Their ever-radical agenda can free us from blunted, blinkered vision. Writes University of Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum, they are what "our academic institutions should promote in order to foster an informed and compassionate vision of the different."




2015

Lost for words? How reading can teach children empathy
Stories have the power to bring emotions to life, and help children understand their own feelings and those of others
Miranda McKearney and Sarah Mears
13 May 2015 - theguardian.com - EmpathyLab.


Boy reading a book

"The benefits of reading go far beyond literacy: an emerging body of research highlights the power of stories to help children handle their own and other people’s feelings. A Cambridge University study by Maria Nikolajeva, professor of education, found that “reading fiction provides an excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy and theory of mind, that is, understanding of how other people feel and think”."




2014

Can Literature Make You More Empathetic?
May 4, 2014

"Some of the most popular movies and TV shows feature likeable killers, and the sympathetic monster is a common character in great fiction. (Think Frankenstein’s monster.) There’s a theory that reading fiction helps us learn to understand other people — so does reading about fictional monsters help us feel empathy for real-life criminals? Joshua Landy is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Stanford and he says fiction can help us be kinder and more empathetic. But it doesn’t necessarily make us better people."


One More Really Big Reason to Read Stories to Children
Peter Gray, Ph.D.
POct 11, 2014
Stories Promote the Development of Empathy
Empathy is believed, by many psychologists, to be the biological foundation for morality. To empathize is to see the world, to some degree, from another person’s point of view and to experience, at least partly, what that person is experiencing. Sensing and in some way feeling the sadness or fear of another person is a first step toward wanting to help that person, and feeling the joy of another is reward for helping to bring that joy.



Can Reading a Fictional Story Make You More Empathetic?
Neuroscience explains why reading fiction can make your brain more empathetic.
 Christopher Bergland
Dec 01, 2014

"Neuroscientists mapping the brain have discovered that reading fiction taps into the same brain networks as real life experience. When you are engaged in reading a fictional story your brain is literally living vicariously through the characters at a neurobiological level. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that reading a chapter of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” lights up the same brain regions that would be involved in watching someone moving—or flying on a broom—in the real world."



2013


Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy
By Julianne Chiaet 
October 4, 2013  - scientificamerican.com 

"The types of books we read may affect how we relate to others. Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies in which they divided a varying number of participants (ranging from 86 to 356) and gave them different reading assignments: excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing. After they finished the excerpts the participants took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The researchers found, to their surprise, a significant difference between the literary- and genre-fiction readers." (Kidd 2013)



Reading literary fiction improves empathy, study finds  
(take the test online)
By Liz Bury
Oct 8,  2013
Joe and Pip in 2012's film adaptation of Great Expectations

"New research shows works by writers such as Charles Dickens and Téa Obreht sharpen our ability to understand others' emotions – more than thrillers or romance novels. Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, at the New School for Social Research in New York, have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people's emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships."



 
SORT

Building a World of Empathy Through the Simple Yet Profound Act of Reading Aloud
by Pam Ally
Building a World of Empathy Through the Simple Yet Profound Act of Reading Aloud   | Empathy and Compassion | Scoop.it
“Empathy is as important as literacy. When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human.”–Anna Dewdney

A 2013 study at Harvard University found that reading fiction has a positive correlation with emotional intelligence. Students in the study who “immersed themselves in the mental life of fictional characters” exhibited an increased ability to recognize perspectives and desires outside of their own. Anna Dewdney understood this in writing about her gentle llama and all the depth of feeling in those profoundly tender stories. She understood that the child who hears such stories will recognize the world of others in new ways and find comfort themselves." 
(Dodell-Feder + 2013)




 Barack Obama Promotes Empathy from Books and Literacy

YouTube Video


 Barack Obama  "The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see the world through their eyes.  And the great power of books is the capacity to take you out of yourself and put you somewhere else. And to suddenly say, “Oh, this is what it’s like” – maybe not perfectly – but it gives you some glimpse of “This is what it is like to be a woman”, or “This is what it is like to be an African-American”. Or “This is what it is like to be impoverished in India”. Or “This is what it’s like to be in the midst of war”.

And so much of what binds us together in society and allows it to function effectively depends on it. And so much of what is wrong with how we interact, and so much of what is wrong with our politics has to do with the absence of that quality. And so it’s books more than anything else that are going to give our young people the ability to see other people. And that then gives them the capacity to act responsibly with respect to other people."



Reading for pleasure builds empathy and improves wellbeing, research from The Reading Agency finds



"There is strong evidence that reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing throughout life, new research carried out for The Reading Agency has found. The report, conducted by BOP Consulting and funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, brings together a strong and growing body of research that shows how and why reading for pleasure can bring a range of other benefits to individuals and society. There is already strong evidence to show that reading for pleasure plays a vital role in improving educational outcomes. However, in the UK, most children do not read on a daily basis and almost a third of adults don't read for pleasure."





Ten of the Best Books to boost empathy

Sarah Mears

The Jar of Happiness

"Which books have really helped you empathise with someone else? Books have a unique power to help us see the world anew, through the eyes of characters whose experiences are very different from our own. A building body of neuroscience research shows that reading fiction can actually expand our brain’s capacity for empathy, and that 98% of us can train our plastic brains to become more empathetic. EmpathyLab, a new organisation, harnesses this power. They’ve been collecting recommendations for great books to build strong empathy habits and the list below, chosen by EmpathyLab founder Sarah Mears, includes some of their favourites."





Academic Studies




Using Fiction to Assess Mental State Understanding: A New Task for Assessing Theory of Mind in Adults
by David Dodell-Feder , Sarah Hope Lincoln, Joseph P. Coulson, Christine I. Hooker
(Dodell-Feder + 2013)

Citation: Dodell-Feder D, Lincoln SH, Coulson JP, Hooker CI (2013) Using Fiction to Assess Mental State Understanding: A New Task for Assessing Theory of Mind in Adults. PLoS ONE 8(11): e81279. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081279



"Social functioning depends on the ability to attribute and reason about the mental states of others – an ability known as theory of mind (ToM). Research in this field is limited by the use of tasks in which ceiling effects are ubiquitous, rendering them insensitive to individual differences in ToM ability and instances of subtle ToM impairment. Here, we present data from a new ToM task – the Short Story Task (SST) - intended to improve upon many aspects of existing ToM measures."





“Did you Feel as if you Hated People?”: Emotional Literacy Through Fiction
Maria Nikolajeva
Sep 
05,  2013
(Nikolajeva 2013)


Abstract
"Recent studies in cognitive literary criticism have provided scholars of literature with new stimulating approaches to literary texts. The ability to understand how other people think and feel, known as empathy, is arguably the most important capacity that distinguishes human beings from other living organisms. Empathy is also one of the most essential social skills. However, this capacity does not appear automatically; it develops gradually, and it can be enhanced and trained. The article argues, taking Frances Hodgson Burnett's children's novel The Secret Garden as an example, that emotional literacy can be enhanced through the reading of fiction."





(Giovanni Francesco, "Portrait of a Man Reading a Book)

Abstract
"The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader. Based on transportation theory, it was predicted that when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic. Two experiments showed that empathy was influenced over a period of one week for people who read a fictional story, but only when they were emotionally transported into the story. 

No transportation led to lower empathy in both studies, while study 1 showed that high transportation led to higher empathy among fiction readers. These effects were not found for people in the control condition where people read non-fiction. The study showed that fiction influences empathy of the reader, but only under the condition of low or high emotional transportation into the story."





Study: Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds
(Oatley 2016)


by Keith Oatley 
"Fiction is the simulation of selves in interaction. People who read it improve their understanding of others. This effect is especially marked with literary fiction, which also enables people to change themselves. These effects are due partly to the process of engagement in stories, which includes making inferences and becoming emotionally involved, and partly to the contents of fiction, which include complex characters and circumstances that we might not encounter in daily life. Fiction can be thought of as a form of consciousness of selves and others that can be passed from an author to a reader or spectator, and can be internalized to augment everyday cognition."




Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind
By David Comer Kidd*,  Emanuele Castano*
(Kidd 2013)

Miss Auras, by John Lavery, Wikipedia

Abstract

Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.




 By AYMOND A. MAR,  KEITH OATLEY,  JORDAN B. PETERSON
(Mar, Oatly, Peterson)


(A Cavalrist Reading in a 17th Century Interior Lambertus Lingeman)

Abstract
"Readers of fiction tend to have better abilities of empathy and theory of mind (Mar et al., 2006). We present a study designed to replicate this finding, rule out one possible explanation, and extend the assessment of social outcomes. In order to rule out the role of personality, we first identified Openness as the most consistent correlate.

This trait was then statistically controlled for, along with two other important individual differences: the tendency to be drawn into stories and gender. Even after accounting for these variables, fiction exposure still predicted performance on an empathy task. Extending these results, we also found that exposure to fiction was positively correlated with social support. Exposure to nonfiction, in contrast, was associated with loneliness, and negatively related to social support."




Exploring the link between reading fiction and empathy:
Ruling out individual differences and examining outcomes

By RAYMOND A. MAR, KEITH OATLEY and JORDAN B. PETERSON
2009
Abstract
"Readers of fiction tend to have better abilities of empathy and theory of mind (Mar et al., 2006). We present a study designed to replicate this finding, rule out one possible explanation, and extend the assessment of social outcomes. In order to rule out the role of personality, we first identified Openness as the most consistent correlate. This trait was then statistically controlled for, along with two other important individual differences: the tendency to be drawn into stories and gender. 

Even after accounting for these variables, fiction exposure still predicted performance on an empathy task. Extending these results, we also found that exposure to fiction was positively correlated with social support. Exposure to nonfiction, in contrast, was associated with loneliness, and negatively related to social support."



References

[1] Quoted by Keith Oatley (1999). Why fiction may be twice as true as fact: Fiction as cognitive and emotional simulation. Review of General Psychology, 3, 101-117.

[2] Keith Oatley & Raymond A. Mar (2005). Evolutionary pre-adaptation and the idea of character in fiction. Journal of Culture and Evolutionary Psychology, 3, 181-196.

[3] Raymond A. Mar & Keith Oatley (2008). The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience.  Perspectives in Psychological Sciences, 3, 173-192.

[4] Jennifer L. Barnes & Paul Bloom (2014). Children’s preference for social stories.  Developmental Psychology, 50, 498-503.

[5] Maja Djikic, Keith Oatley, Sara Zoeterman, & Jordan B. Peterson (2009). On being moved by art: How reading fiction transforms the self. Creativity Research Journal, 21, 24-29.

[6] Fritz Breithaupt (2011). How is it possible to have empathy? Four models.  In P. Leverage, H. Mancing, R. Schweickert, & J. M. William (Eds.), Theory of mind and literature.  pp 237-288.  Purdue University Press.  Also, Fritz Breithaupt (2012). A three-person model of empathy.  Emotion Review, 4, 84-91.

[7] Raymond A. Mar, Keith Oatley, Jacob Hirsch, Jennifer del Paz, & Jordan B. Peterson (2006).  Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social world. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 694-712.  Also, Katrina Fong, Justin B. Mullin, and Raymond A.Mar (2013). What you read matters: The role of fiction genre in predicting interpersonal sensitivity.  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7, 370-376.

[8] Joan Peskin & Janet Wilde Astington (2004). The effects of adding metacognitive language to story texts. Cognitive Development, 19, 253-273.

[9] Phyllis A. Katz & Sue Rosenberg Zalk (1978). Modification of children’s racial attitudes. Developmental Psychology, 14, 447-461.

[10] John H. Litcher & David W. Johnson (1969). changes in attitudes toward negroes of white elementary school students after use of multiethnic readers.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 60, 148-152.





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