A good way to learn to “read” the minds of others is to… take in literature.

According to a new American scientific research, published in the “New York Times”, reading good literature books helps people develop valuable cognitive and emotional capabilities, which facilitate the development of interpersonal relationships and thus help communities work better.

Researchers of the New School for Social Research in New York, led by a Social Psychology Professor Emanuele Castano, made five experiments which assessed the impact of the literature on the ability of readers to recognize the perspective of others and understand what they think and feel.

For the purposes of the research, the participants were given books of good classical and more contemporary literature (Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens, and Don DeLillo), modern “bestsellers” of lower quality (“Fifty shades of gray”) and non-literary works.

According to the researchers, reading literary masterpieces improved readers’ empathy, i.e. the ability to “read” other peoples’ minds or being sensitive to the feelings and motives of those around them, as opposed to those who read the other kinds of books.

Thus, the qualitative literature, regardless of its specific content, seems to “open” the mind of the reader.

In concluding, the report points out that “Fifty shades of gray” may be an entertaining read, but it does not help one indulge in the hearts and minds of other people in the way that “War and Peace” by Tolstoy does.


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