I ran across this article today which talks about a new study that suggests fiction readers really aren’t as weird, awkward, or socially inept as the world originally thought. Rejoice!
But really, as an avid fiction reader and writer for nearly 20 of my 25 years on earth, I find this study kind of interesting. I don’t feel like I’m socially awkward all the time… just some of the time. Why? I don’t know. Strangers freak me out. Sometimes my mind goes blank and I’m not sure what to say next to someone I don’t really know. I tend to need a lot of “recovery” time after intense social events (this is why I looked forward to my honeymoon so much last year– talk about intense social event rehab!)
So I’m certainly an introvert (which doesn’t mean I’m quiet or meek or shy… just ask my husband, my family, my best friends). And it turns out science can support the fact that reading and being a bookworm doesn’t automatically make someone socially awkward! Yes! Quite the opposite, actually: apparently reading fiction makes you more empathetic than if you were to read mostly non-fiction. According to the article:
This could of course be correlation rather than causation — maybe the kind of person who likes fiction is more empathic to start with — but the researchers think not. They believe that there’s something about exposure to fiction — the direct immersion in another person’s mind and body — that stimulates our empathic muscles.
That’s so cool. And not really all that surprising. If you read fiction, you’ve probably come across enough books that made you feel something (sadness, anger, love, frustration, joy) for a character that you understand what this study is talking about. The more fictional people you can feel for, the more wide-reaching your ability is to empathize with real people and situations.
Again, it makes sense. So today let’s celebrate the nerdy-but-not-necessarily-awkward-or-socially-inept fiction reader within! Raise your paperbacks, first editions, e-readers or hardcovers and toast to being a word-lover who can empathize like no other.
What do you think of this study? What work(s) of fiction have emotionally impacted you?