PhD Candidate in psychology, David Kidd, along with other panelist at a Stanford Conference posed the question: Does reading literature make you more moral? David is working with Prof. Emanuale Castano. You can read about the conference, its panelists, and even watch some video by click on this link. Below is an excerpt from the article.
Kidd has run a series of social psychological experiments designed to show that reading literary fiction challenges readers cognitively in a way that has some interesting and potentially beneficial effects; a write-up of their studies was published this past October in Science. Kidd noted that reading literary fiction—as opposed to reading non-fiction, popular genre fiction, or nothing at all—requires readers to integrate several streams of information at once, while highlighting human subjectivity and the existence of multiple perspectives. Literary fiction disrupts the social scripts we take for granted by plunging us into unfamiliar situations, and by requiring us to pay attention to people we might normally never encounter or interactions we would usually sail through without real engagement. What they found is that reading literary fiction at least temporarily improves a test subject’s ability to perform well on social psychological tests of both cognitive and affective theory of mind. The implication is that reading literary fiction might enhance a person’s ability to discern others’ feelings and intentions—a skill that is central to the successful navigation of complex social relationships in a multifaceted multicultural world like our own. Or, Kidd suggested, reading might simply disrupt readers’ customary egocentrism. [Read more…]