empathy

imagebotDo you get “lost” in books? I do. I tend to binge when I read, consuming novels in a few hours or in a “day”, even if that means staying up late into the night to do so. I remember as a teen that my emotions were absolutely controlled by the story I was reading, mostly leading to great despair, lol. (I don’t think I read many novels with happy endings back then.) I’m better able to control my responses now–no matter what I read–but I’m still emotionally transported by a good story.

A new study finds that reading fiction not only gives us strong emotional experiences but that it also influences our ability to be empathetic. I couldn’t help but think of that study when my friend Libby sent me this link to a short video: Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care. Yes, the setting is a hospital, but the idea can be applied anywhere–our workplaces, a coffee shop, the mall, church, a soccer game, our neighborhood.

Does reading fiction make you more aware of the “unknown” stories around you? Do you feel it makes you more empathetic?

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2 Comments

  1. Leslie Gould
    Jun 25, 2013

    I have to add that I believe non-fiction–memoirs and well-written biographies–also lead to empathy in the reader. For example, Glass Castles by Jeannette Walls (http://www.amazon.com/The-Glass-Castle-Memoir-ebook/dp/B000OVLKMM/ref=zg_bs_154793011_4) and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (http://www.amazon.com/Unbroken-World-Survival-Resilience-Redemption/dp/1400064163/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372215595&sr=1-1) are examples of books that I know increased my empathy and have stayed with me long after I read them.

  2. Terri Picone
    Feb 4, 2014

    That’s one of the things I love about fiction. How it pulls me into a story so much that I feel a part of it. It transfers to real life when I meet someone new and wonder about their stories.

    Good fiction and all good story make us more human as we relate to the characters and their stories. We get inside people’s heads who are different than us and see life from their perspective.

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