The Practical Benefits of Reading Literature
Contrary to popular belief, indulging in literature and taking a long leaf through a great book is not just a frivolous pastime or an unproductive lark. Literature has been helping shape our world and the human condition for thousands of years, so why should it now incur a stigma of being a lazy and unproductive activity? Research has shown that not only does reading help sharpen and strengthen your memory, but it actually helps you be more empathetic and social. Reading involves a lot of remembering – plot lines, character names, etc. – and every time you use your memory, you strengthen it. Reading is like a mental workout! Moreover, research shows that when we empathize and relate to characters in fiction, it makes us able to more easily relate to people in the real world, making us more understanding and more social. For some other great benefits that reading bestows upon us, check out Shimer College’s recent blog post about the benefits of reading literature.
“Recently, there was a study done by psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, in which 1000 participants were given an assigned text to read – either a popular fiction novel like that of Danielle Steele or a celebrated work of literary fiction like a Don DeLillo short story. They then analysed through a series of tests the level of emotional empathy of the participants after the assigned reading. Overwhelmingly, the participants who read the more literary tomes were much more empathetic and emotionally understanding. This is attributed to the more open-ended nature of literary fiction, where readers fill in many of the gaps themselves with assumptions and imagination, whereas popular fiction serves only to entertain at a surface level.”