All sorts of narratives, including literary fiction, TV shows and even certain video games could help boost our fellow-feeling.That is the conclusion of a new review by Professor Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychologist and novelist.

your brain (artist’s rendition)

Literary fiction, in particular, which simulates the social world, may help to boost our empathy with others.

One study gave people a test of empathy after they had either read some literary fiction or some nonfiction.

It was the literary fiction which produced the most empathetic response in people.

Professor Oatley said:

“The most important characteristic of being human is that our lives are social.

What’s distinctive about humans is that we make social arrangements with other people–with friends, with lovers, with children–that aren’t pre-programmed by instinct.

Fiction can augment and help us understand our social experience.”


Professor Oatley said:

“What’s a piece of fiction, what’s a novel, what’s short story, what’s a play or movie or television series?

It’s a piece of consciousness being passed from mind to mind.

When you’re reading or watching a drama, you’re taking in a piece of consciousness that you make your own.

That seems an exciting idea.”

The study was published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences (Oatley, 2016).

from PsyBlog


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