CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

Sorry, Reading Jane Austen Doesn’t Make You a Better Person

But the Arts Have Plenty to Tell Researchers About How Emotions Work

In 2013, Science published a study with the intriguing title, “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.” The authors (David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano) claimed to have proven that literary fiction—not “genre” fiction, not well-written nonfiction, but literary fiction—develops our “theory of mind,” which means our ability to recognize other peoples’ thoughts and feelings. This ability, in the words of the authors, “allows successful navigation of complex social relationships and helps to support the empathic responses that maintain them.”

Newspapers and magazines were quick to report these results. A …

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