Another use for literature: ability to understand others, a precursor of empathy

Theory of mind’ researchers find that reading serious fiction boosts one’s ability to understand others, a precursor of empathy.


One thing that interests psychologists is the extent to which developing theory of mind is a precursor to the capacity for empathy. They are also looking at the way in which people with autism and sociopaths develop these abilities — or don’t. And primatologists have demonstrated some of the rudiments of theory of mind in other apes.

Now, research by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano of the New School for Social Research, published in the journal Science, suggests that reading literature improves these intuitive abilities. But not just any literature. Literature with a capital “L.”