North Texas Daily

Does reading really increase one’s empathy?

Does reading really increase one’s empathy?

Does reading really increase one’s empathy?
February 21
19:25 2018

What if reading a work of fiction could help you empathize with others?

Empathy is one’s ability to put him or herself in the shoes of another. Empathy allows you to understand someone’s burdens and how their situation makes them feel.

A recent study shows an association with those who read fiction and their ability to discern the emotions of others. It was noted that increased empathy was not experienced by subjects who read nonfiction or pop fiction.

When we read a well-written work of fiction, we can sometimes relate to one or several characters within the story. We follow the character as she climbs mountains and battle dragons. We watch her rise to face her challenge, and we watch her fall.

Characters within stories who come from humble backgrounds also have an unique impact on readers. An individual who has been fortunate enough to have many of his needs provided for him may not be able to understand the struggles of someone the same age who works late hours to put herself through school and pay her rent on time.

However, when reading about a humble character and all of her hard work, the reader is granted a window into her life where he or she can experience and feel what the character experiences and feels.

During the experience of your favorite character’s successes, failures and plights, you are actually practicing empathy.

Being able to feel the pain and anguish of someone who doesn’t exist is excellent practice.

Different types of literary works and writing styles evoke a plethora of emotions while other works may not bring much to the table at all.

For example, a sci-fi novel about aliens attacking planet earth and the human resistance is likely to stir emotions of anxiety and hope that the humans are successful in their endeavors.

On the contrary, a nonfiction work about soil composition and how it affects plant growth may not be that powerful page-turner which you can relate to on an intimate level.

It is important to note that fiction is not inherently better than any other genre. Each genre, after all, brings something unique to the table. Nearly every book holds some insight or perspective that a reader may not have encountered.

Empathy is such an important talent in today’s modern world. A common reoccurring issue in many parts our society is a lack of empathy for our fellow human being. We lack an inherent understanding of those around us which only instigates apprehension and hinders progress towards equality.

I would argue with this in mind, we should all take a break from our fast-paced lives, our computers and televisions. Instead, pick up a book and go on a journey with a hero and a villain.

Featured Image: Illustration by Gabby Evans

About Author

Sean Rainey

Sean Rainey

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