Literary Fiction Teaches Humanity

Writing plot-driven genre fiction is the trend but literary fiction and I’m assuming literary non-fiction  still has a place and a great value in our culture. In fact, in a recent NPR interview with Mary Karr, she states that the growth in the popularity of memoir is just that – a desire for more human stories.

In How Literary Fiction Teaches Us to be Human by Tom Blunt in Signature Magazine, the proof’s in the science.

“In an abstract published by the magazine in 2013, researchers found that reading literary fiction led to better results in subjects tested for Theory of Mind. That same year, another study found heightened brain activity in readers of fiction, specifically in the areas related to visualization and understanding language. As Mic explains: “A similar process happens when you envision yourself as a character in a book: You can take on the emotions they are feeling.”

More recently, Trends in Cognitive Sciences reported more findings that link reading and empathy, employing a test called “Mind of the Eyes” in which subjects viewed photographs of strangers’ eyes, describing what they believed that person was thinking or feeling (readers of fiction scored significantly higher). It turns out that the narrative aspect of fiction is key to this response. From the study: “participants who had read the fictional story Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah … were found to have a reduced bias in the perception of Arab and Caucasian faces compared to control subjects who read a non-narrative passage.” More plot-driven genre fiction doesn’t seem to have the same effect.”

Read the rest of the article here 

 

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