People often think that, yes, books make you smarter but at the same time people who read a lot struggle when it comes to social relationships. A new study reveals that this is not true. In fact, reading could actually make you a kinder, more empathetic person. It also makes you act in a socially acceptable manner.
The study, conducted by Kingston University in London, involved 124 participants. Participants were quizzed on their preferences for books, TV, and plays. They were also tested on interpersonal skills including how much they considered other people’s feelings and whether they acted to help others.
The study found that those who preferred books were more likely to act in a socially acceptable manner compared to those who preferred watching TV. Those who preferred watching TV, on the other hand, came across as less friendly and less understanding of others’ views.
However, not all types of books tend to have the same effect. The study shows that the type of literature you choose also has a huge impact on your emotional intelligence. In particular, the study revealed that fiction fans showed more positive social behavior while readers of drama and romance novels were found to be the most empathic. In the same vein, fans of experimental books were most able to see things from alternative perspectives, and readers who favored comedy fans were best at relating to others.
“Exposure to fiction relates to a range of empathetic abilities […] Engaging with fictional prose and comedy in particular could be key to enhancing people’s empathetic abilities,” said the researchers during the British Psychological Society conference in Brighton.
It should be borne in mind, however, that the study did not prove cause-and-effect. It may very well be that nicer people are more drawn to reading books.