Is Empathy Overrated? Read Literary Fiction

By: Aryanne Ferguson

I’m a firm believer that reading is good for you, academically, emotionally, you name it. When I was in and out of grad school, I tutored for a little over 4 years (K-12 and college). I noticed that many of my students who struggled with written forms of communication had poor vocabularies or rarely read unless it was a homework assignment (I’m not counting articles on the internet). I can never over-stress the importance of reading to in order to write. For example, at a basic level, you’ll never know how to make a characters speak until you learn how to punctuate dialogue.

“Yes, you’re so right,” Reader nodded.  “Aryanne, more people should listen to you.”
“Aw shucks,” Aryanne replied. “You’re just saying that.” She smiled and toasted Reader’s astute point of view.

Reading fiction does more than give you the ability to communicate through the written word and succeed academically, studies show a link between reading fiction and empathy. Multiple scientific studies reached the same conclusion. This is probably old news to you, but according to this article, reading literary fiction could make you even more empathetic than reading other types of fiction:

Literary fiction enhanced participants’ empathy because they had to work harder at fleshing out the characters. The process of trying to understand what those characters are feeling and the motives behind them is the same in our relationships with other people.

– from “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction” by Gabe Bergado

So what do you think, Reader? Do you buy this article? Are you skeptical of the studies? Is empathy overrated?

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