On Thursday, the journal Science published a study (Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind) that found people scored better on tests measuring empathy, social perceptiveness, and emotional intelligence after they had read literary fiction than after they had read popular fiction or rigorous non-fiction.
This result cheered members of the literary community and confirmed an idea that I’ve long argued using anecdotal evidence, which is one of the most important functions of literature is to strengthen emotional intelligence.
This function also explains why literature is the only art included in core educational curriculums. The ability to accurately read the feelings of other people is perhaps the most essential skill for living in social groups, and living in well functioning social groups is one of our key adaptations as a species.
So all this is good news — which I greeted with considerable apprehension and unease.
Part of my…
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