Posted by Lori Goldman on Friday, January 17, 2014
From the Brain Bulletin

"A novel is a direct impression of life." ~ Henry James
Good point.
Reading fiction, it turns out, is a great way to develop your social brain.
Research shows that reading novels, for example, shapes our brains and molds our social skills.
A study by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar found that reading fiction improves your ability to connect with others. The study demonstrated that people who read fiction perform better on tests of empathy. This result held up even when they controlled for the variable that empathetic people might naturally choose to read fiction. The study found that the more fiction a person read, the stronger the ability to make mental models of others.
Another study in 2010 found that small children who are exposed to lots of fiction material possessed a stronger ability to read the brain states of others.
In 2009, in another study, Oatley found that adults who read novels improved their socials skills, including emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and extroversion.
Why does this happen?
It seems that reading fiction allows you to 'live in other people's brains'. The result is a stronger theory of mind. That is, the ability to take the perspective of another, to understand that person's mental model, to see issues and ideas in terms of other people's experiences.
Think about these practical benefits:
- better relationships.
- improved leadership skills.
- increased collaboration skills.
- greater emotional intelligence = greater income (P. Salovey, Yale)
- excellent, inexpensive entertainment.
- a greater understanding of human character.
- when you put the book down, you are better prepared for the world.
Remember - your brain is wired to see what is essential, not what is real. Reading fiction intervenes in your cognitive processes. It can even change your personality.
FMRI scans show the brain responding to fiction as if the reader were feeling and acting just like the characters.
For more on this, check out  The Amazing Discovery of Mirror Neurons
Scientific American Magazine recommends these 9 novels to sharpen your mind:

1.The Sorrows of Young Werther - Johann von Goethe

2. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
3. The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
4. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
5. Middlemarch  - George Eliot
6. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
7. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
8. Beloved - Toni Morrison
9. Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
I used to feel slightly guilty when reading a novel. Thinking I should be reading something 'real'. Not any more......

About Me

Lori in I got my Bachelor of Education degree in the USA but was born and raised in Canada. Working in Asia and with immigrant adults and children for 26 years has given me insights into the difficulties they face in a new country and school system. I like to help adults adjust to and explore the rich and diverse opportunities in Canada while also supporting them in their challenge of parenting in a new culture. I love to help children learn English, develop skills, and gain confidence to succeed in school and life.


“Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning A lack of planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part. "Most people don't plan to fail; they fail to plan." ~~John L. Beckley

Make a free website with Yola