Doctoral candidate David Comer Kidd and his advisor, professor of psychology, Emanuele Castano from The New School in New York, New York published new research in the Oct. 3, 2013, issue of the journal Science that indicates reading literary fiction enhances a person’s ability to perceive the mental and emotional states of other people.
The researchers had the same group of test participants read literary fiction, popular fiction, and nonfiction. All works to be read were from credible sources. After reading each type of literature the participants were given a standard battery of tests that measure a person’s ability to perceive the emotions and mental state of other people either directly or from photographs.
In five of five different scenarios, the people who read literary fiction were better able to discern the emotional and mental states of others. This ability is considered an intrinsic and necessary quality for successfully negotiating social settings and achieving social acceptance.
Only reading literary quality fiction achieved the desired improvement in the skills. The texts used in the tests were highly varied in subject matter and content but the results produced were the same.
The authors opine that literary fiction places a person as a reader in complex social situations that are not unlike the realities of social life. Hence, reading literary fiction that parrots real life makes one more adept at managing real life situations.