Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reading benefits research

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. The researchers conducted 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.
Kidd, D., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science 18 October 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6156 pp. 377-380 

There is also an interesting Press Release about this research from the New School in New York City:

The article and the press release both refer to ToM Theory of Mind.  Here is a brief description of what this term actually means:  http://www.howstuffworks.com/theory-of-mind.htm 

Another older piece of research:
Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds.  Authors:  Raymond A. Mar Keith OatleyJacob HirshJennifer dela PazJordan B. Peterson. published by the University of Toronto in 2006. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009265660500053X

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