How Reading Fiction Makes Us Better People
While literature has been criticized as a corrupting influence at different points in history, recent research suggests that works of fiction draw out the empathy in us, encouraging justice.
What's the Latest Development?
If you've watched a recent episode of CSI, you probably exercised your moral faculty without know it. Recent sociological research suggests that we naturally draw moral distinctions between characters in fictional tales, following from how those characters treat the people around them. Jonathan Gottschall, whose findings will be published in the forthcoming book "Graphing Jane Austen", said: "Our survey respondents reacted to the characters as though they were real people: They admired the protagonists, disliked the antagonists, felt happy when the good guys succeeded, and felt sad or angry when they were threatened."
What's the Big Idea?
While literature has been condemned at different points in history for encouraging anti-social behavior, research suggests that individuals who read works of fiction are more likely to empathize with others. And while nonfiction is tasked with the purpose of persuading through argument and evidence, "studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical." Reading fiction, on the other hand, allows us to drop our intellectual guard, moving us emotionally. Evolutionary psychologists say nature has selected for storytelling because of its strong moral component.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.
- Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
- Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.
Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.
"I was so moved when I saw the cells stir," said 90-year-old study co-author Akira Iritani. "I'd been hoping for this for 20 years."
- The team managed to stimulate nucleus-like structures to perform some biological processes, but not cell division.
- Unless better technology and DNA samples emerge in the future, it's unlikely that scientists will be able to clone a woolly mammoth.
- Still, studying the DNA of woolly mammoths provides valuable insights into the genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive in unique environments.
Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?
- Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
- Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
- Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.