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 …

More In: arts

Can Engaging with Art Turn a Bunch of Selfie-Takers into Citizens?

Changing Audiences Are Making Creators and Institutions Rethink Art Itself

If the essence of art is necessarily elusive and hard to define, so too is the essence of arts engagement. As audiences grow more diverse and demanding, and new digital …

Seeing Art from a Local Perspective in Hyper-Global Hong Kong

On an Island Connecting East and West, Our Stories Can Speak to the World

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, where I work, is 55 years old this year. Though we have changed a lot over the years, we still hold to a special …

California Can Reconceive the Arts by Offering More Choices and Ways to Participate

Demographic and Technological Shifts Could Let Arts in the Golden State Better Serve Communities

California is undergoing massive changes in technology, demography, the nature of work and, thus, in leisure activity. So is its cultural sector, with consequences for how Californians experience art and …

Staging a Life-Changing Project in El Salvador with Canada’s Stratford Festival

A Cultural Partnership Is Reviving Suchitoto, a Beautiful, Historic Town in a Troubled Nation

This piece was adapted from an interview with Antoni Cimolino, Edward Daranyi, and Mark Smith of Canada’s Stratford Festival.

The Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, is a 64-year-old Canadian repertory theater …

By Engaging Our Emotions, Art Can Strengthen Our Democracies

Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Cinema Help Us Shape Debate and Bolster Citizenship

Can the arts be a stimulus for democracy? The question may seem strange because, in principle, there does not seem to be a relationship between the arts and democracy. What …