Researchers are constantly finding that reading has amazing benefits. One study of successful adults found they shared a common hobby of reading, plenty of research shows that reading before bed helps you sleep and relieve stress, and numerous studies have found the positive impact reading has on mental and overall health. Some doctors in the UK have started prescribing books to teens with mental health issues to empower them! The benefits of reading are far reaching, and new information on its positive impacts are constantly being found.
According to a study conducted by Kingston University in London, reading on a regular basis could contribute to you being a kinder and more empathetic person! Researchers asked participants about their preference for books, TV, or plays. They were then tested “on interpersonal skills including how much they considered other people’s feeling and whether they acted to help others.”
Researchers found some commonalities among those who preferred books. While “TV lovers came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views,” book lovers were overall more empathetic. Not all book-lovers are created equal in this study, however. Those who loved more “experimental books” were found to be even more understanding and open. Researchers stated that “exposure to fiction related to a range of empathetic abilities… Engaging with fictional prose and comedy, in particular, could be key to enhancing people’s empathetic abilities.”
At the American Psychological Association’s annual convention, psychologist Raymond Mar discussed the impact of fiction on human empathy. He argued that exposure to a range of stories shows us how our emotions are relatable and helps us understand others who we otherwise would never have contact with. He explains:
When people read stories we invoke personal experiences. We’re relying not just on words on a page, but also our own past experiences… Even though fiction is fabricated, it can communicate truths about human psychology and relationships.
Through reading, we can connect to characters while comprehending the reality of certain people’s lives and experiences that we will never live or experience.
Both studies acknowledge that reading may not cause people to be more empathetic and kind, but rather that those more empathetically inclined prefer to read.
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