While we can’t guarantee that reading Dickens will turn you into Jean Grey, new research suggests that reading literary fiction actually enables you to more closely “read” the thoughts and feelings of others around you. Reading while wearing Emma Frost’s outfits remains totally optional.
It’s true: Science just published a new study from Toronto’s York University, in which they gave social perception tests to people after assigning them pieces of literature to read. The social perception tests included asking the subjects to look at a black-and-white photographs of actors, in order to determine what emotion they were expressing in the photograph.
Ultimately, the subjects who had read literary fiction scored much higher than those who read nonfiction or popular fiction (eg. Danielle Steele). The major difference between the two types of literature used in the study is that popular fiction is largely focused on plot, while classic literary fiction dives more deeply into characters’ psychology and inner thoughts.
Psychology researcher Raymond Mar, from the University of Toronto, said that this finding is “largely consistent with [a] growing body of work showing that what we read and our exposure to narrative has a very interesting impact on our social abilities and our ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling.”
Well I guess now’s as good a time as any to bust out my old Jane Austin collection. How else am I going to become an X-Man, realistically?
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