So scientists have discovered that people who read a lot of fiction and become emotionally involved with the characters actually learn to become more ’empathic’ – by which they mean caring and compassionate.
Another case of scientists finally waking up and noticing what’s bleeding obvious. That’s a little unfair. I know science can’t assume common sense is right, because sometimes it isn’t. And there’s never any harm in having some hard evidence and actual research data. But really… People get good at the things they practice. Do something a lot and the brain makes more room for that activity. Get emotionally involved with the suffering of others on a daily basis, and sure enough, the brain responds, learns how to do that.
Of course, the scary side of this is the amount of cold, heartless violence there is in much of our society’s fictional narratives. Because the reverse has to be true. If we can treat the death of any character, even the ‘bad guy,’ as meaningless and trivial, then we’ll be laying down pathways for that too.
You can read the full research paper here.
Or an NBC report on the findings here.