Stories foment empathy

The correlation between literature and empathy is becoming increasingly strong as researchers examine the issue. In “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined,” Steven Pinker states that the “human capacity for compassion is not a reflex that is triggered automatically by the presence of another living thing.” But he goes on to discuss how being exposed to the stories — both fictive and non — of others does encourage adopting those people’s vantage points. And it’s that adoption, that understanding of such, that breeds compassion and empathy.

 

Pinker concludes, “Technological advances in publishing, the mass production of books, the expansion of literacy … all preceded the major humanitarian reforms of the 18th century.

 

Shawna Bethell