Reading develops the ability to understand others


Reading not only develops, trains the imagination, enriches speech, improves empathy and helps to better understand and feel each other. Canadian psychologist and writer Keith Otley and colleagues studied data from experiments that examined the benefits of fiction for the human brain and psyche.1

He calls fiction a way of simulating the social world, a kind of “matrix” into which imagination transfers us. In the fictional world, we learn lessons that help us better understand others in real life.

Under the direction of Keith Otley, experiments were conducted in which participants were tested for recognizing emotions in their eyes. In this test, men and women were shown in turn 36 photographs in which only people’s eyes were visible, and asked to determine what experiences and emotions their gaze reflects.

A book is a fragment of someone else’s consciousness, which seems to be transmitted from one mind to another

Participants who regularly read fiction performed significantly better on this test. At the same time, reading technical and other non-fiction literature did not give such an effect.

Reading also stimulates and develops the brain. In another experiment, participants who were inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine were asked to imagine a scene described in a few simple sentences. The tomograph showed that during the experiment, the activity of the hippocampus, an area associated with learning and memory, increased in the brains of the subjects. Similar processes occur in the brain while reading fiction.

In addition, good literature can help combat prejudice and can teach you to understand and empathize with people of other races and cultures. For example, after reading the book “Saffron Dreams” (a novel about the life of a Muslim woman from Pakistan in New York), the participants, white Americans, changed their negative attitude towards immigrants.

“The main thing in a person is his social life. Unlike animals, our relationships with friends, loved ones, children are not determined by instincts, says Keith Otley. – Fiction enriches social experience and helps to better understand others. Books are not just a way of conveying information, reading helps to broaden horizons, learn about the life of other countries, other cultures, historical periods.

What is a work of fiction, be it a book, film, play, or television series? This is a fragment of someone else’s consciousness, which seems to be transmitted from one mind to another. Fantasy, the writing of various stories is present in almost all human cultures. Some dismissively believe that these stories are for entertainment only, in fact they play a very important role. “

1 K. Oatley, “Fiction: Simulation of Social Worlds,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 20, August 2016.

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