Washington and Lee Professor Finds that Reading Fiction Leads to Empathy, Helpful Behavior

A study by a Washington and Lee University psychology professor has demonstrated that reading a short work of fiction can lead readers to empathize with the work’s characters, to detect subtle emotional expressions more effectively and to engage in pro-social behavior… 

 

Based on the results of the post-reading exercises, Johnson concluded that the more immersed the readers were in the story, the more empathy they felt for the characters. In addition, he found that the heightened empathy led to an enhanced ability to perceive subtle emotional expressions such as fear or happiness. Individuals who experienced higher levels of empathy were also nearly twice as likely to engage in pro-social, or helpful, behavior as individuals experiencing low levels of empathy.