Posts Tagged ‘reading fiction improves empathy’

Reading Fiction Can Help Us Empathize with Others

March 15, 2013

womanreading2Over the past decade, academic researchers have gathered data indicating that reading fiction activates pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion—improving his or her overall social skillfulness.

For example, in study participants who were asked to read about characters setting a new goal, researchers detected activity in the pre-frontal cortex—a part of the brain involved with setting goals.

In another study, subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. Researchers found that the more fiction people read, the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and correctly interpreting social cues.

It seems that when we read fiction, we have the time and opportunity to think deeply about the feelings of others, really imagining the shape and flavor of alternate worlds of experience. Scientists see a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities.

Theory of mind is the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us—colleagues, employees, bosses, customers and clients. It helps us understand others’ points of view—to be empathetic, a trait that is essential in any collaborative enterprise, and certainly in today’s globalized economy.

If improving your reading is on your agenda this year, Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds offers customized programs to help readers of all ages improve their skills and comprehension.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at:


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