Does reading teach empathy?

Researchers have found evidence that reading fiction improves empathy.

In The New School University study, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence after reading literary fiction (as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction). The reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

Not the worst news!

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK: Do you ever feel as though you are “walking in the shoes” of characters when you read novels or short stories? Do you think that feeling helps you better understand and share other people’s perspectives and feelings?

Link to full article on

And for all us nerds, here’s a Link to the full study published in Science.


  1. says

    I’m currently teaching the YA novel to freshmen and sophomores at a small college. I am sensing a distinct, if not profound, effect on some of the knuckleheads, since the reading list deals exclusively with conflicts, poverty, bullying and empathy’s opposite. Reading doesn’t teach just empathy; it teaches life.

    • T Cooper says

      This is good news. Thank you for your comment. And for giving knuckleheads the opportunity to walk in somebody else’s shoes…

  2. meldalina says

    wonder if there is a correlation between reading and watching less TV, or less reality TV.
    I think watching reality TV decreases peoples ability to empathize.
    now I’m off to check out the full study :)

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