Can Fiction Stories Make Us More Empathetic?

Narrative fiction may help build empathy by
exposing us to social content and
helping us reflect on past social interactions
or imagine future interactions, say researchers.

Empathy is important for navigating complex social situations, and is considered a highly desirable trait. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, discussed how exposure to narrative fiction may improve our ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling in his session at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention.

Exposure to Stories

Many stories are about people–their mental states, their relationships—even stories with inanimate objects, may have human-like characteristics. Mar explains that we understand stories using basic cognitive functions,….


Fiction and its relation to real-world empathy, cognition, and behavior,” Raymond Mar, Thursday, August 7, 1:00-1:50 am ET. American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention. Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Pl., NW, Washington, D.C.