Being a bookworm is understandably considered a solitary, lonely hobby. After all, unlike watching television, it would be awfully hard to read a book with a group or even with one other person. Bookish people have stereotypically been thought of as loners and introverts.
Well, science is telling us that those labels may be false. According to research, people who read more—specifically fiction—tend to display more sociable behaviors and are more empathetic.
This conclusion is based upon a British study by Kingston University in London. The researchers asked 123 people about their reading or television watching habits. They also noted what genres they liked—comedy, non-fiction, romance or drama.
The researchers then tested their social skills, asking questions like: How often do you consider other people’s points of view versus your own? Or, Do you go out of your way to actively help others?
One might think that those who prefer to watch television would display more sociable behavior. It would make sense. Because of the massive influx of books out there, it’s more likely that two people have watched the same show versus have read the same book.
However, the results showed the opposite. In book readers versus T.V. watchers, the book readers came out on top when displaying more empathetic behavior. They also found that those who mainly watched television actually displayed more anti-social behavior.
What’s interesting, as noted by researcher Rose Turner was that “all forms of fiction were not equal.” Fiction readers showed the best social skills. Specifically, when broken down by genre, they saw that readers of comedy were the best at relating to people. Romance and drama lovers were the most empathetic and most skilled at seeing things through other’s eyes.
These results are fascinating (not to mention an ego boost to we bookworms); however, they do raise the old “chicken or the egg” question. Is it that reading fiction can help a person become more empathetic or do empathetic people simply read more fiction?
Perhaps the T.V. watchers out there who feel they could use some more empathy can do their own experiment. Pick up some fiction and observe the changes within yourself. Need some reading recommendations? Ask your favorite bookworm, of course!
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