Friday, February 21, 2014

Feature Friday: Read a Book, Get Mind-Reading Skills

So that post title is more than a little misleading, as I'm sure you surmised.  It's long been believed that reading boosts your empathy.  This study is related to that belief, and researches whether reading fiction will increase your ability to read others, or "the ability to intuit someone else’s mental state."  Apparently, the answer is YES.  From HuffPostScience (the original link to Science Mag appears to be broken):
On average, both groups did slightly better on these tests than control subjects who read either a nonfiction article or nothing at all. This fits with previous research showing a positive relationship between fiction and theory of mind. But among the fiction readers, those who read “literary” works scored significantly higher on the theory of mind tests than those who read popular selections, Kidd and Castano report online today in Science.

This article would be a lot more exciting if it claimed that reading gave people bonafide telepathic mind-reading abilities.  As it is, it reads to me kind of like the statement "People who like ice cream tend to notice ice cream stores more than others."  Umm, OBVIOUSLY.  Did we really need a study to point this out?  

Also, HuffPost includes a disclaimer at the end pointing to how difficult it is to categorize all fiction into "literary" and "non-literary," which is THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE CENTURY and I thought deserved more attention than the throwaway addition at the end of the article, but what can you do.

Despite my reservations about the article and the study itself, I thought I'd post a link to this in case one of you is in a reading slump and needs a good reason to pick up a book today.

Also, I would REALLY love it if you did notice some latent telepathy manifesting itself mid-chapter.

2 comments:

  1. I came across this article http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/exclusive/reasons-to-read-a-book on Pinterest earlier this week, which references the study you discuss above as well as some other studies on the benefits of reading - it's far and away the best article I've ever seen from Cosmo (although it does include the obligatory observation that reading makes people sexy, it focuses much more on how reading makes people empathetic, smart, relaxed, and otherwise awesome. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't appear anyone has yet made the connection between reading and super-human mutant powers... we should work on that).

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    1. Ha! That article is definitely the best thing to come out of Cosmo. What a great list! I love the emphasis they placed on empathy and the benefits to the brain that come from reading. Thanks for sharing! I'm still hoping for those super-human mutant powers, though. :)

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