Does reading fiction make us nicer?

Yes. Reading fiction makes us more likely to do kind things for others:

Theorists from diverse disciplines purport narrative fiction serves to foster empathic development and growth. In two studies, participants’ subjective, behavioral, and perceptual responses were observed after reading a short fictional story. In study 1, participants who were more transported into the story exhibited higher affective empathy and were more likely to engage in prosocial behavior. In study 2, reading-induced affective empathy was related to greater bias toward subtle, fearful facial expressions, decreased perceptual accuracy of fearful expressions, and a higher likelihood of engaging in prosocial behavior. These effects persisted after controlling for an individual’s dispositional empathy and general tendency to become absorbed in a story. This study provides an important initial step in empirically demonstrating the influence of reading fiction on empathy, emotional perception, and prosocial behavior.

Highlights

► The influence of reading fiction on empathy, perception, and behavior is examined.

► Reading fiction increased state empathy while controlling for trait empathy.

Reading fiction increased prosocial behavior and perceptual bias toward fearful expressions.

Source: “Transportation into a story increases empathy, prosocial behavior, and perceptual bias toward fearful expressions” from Personality and Individual Differences

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