Scientists claim that a person can become more empathetic by reading fiction stories.
Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, discussed how exposure to narrative fiction may improve our ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling in his session at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.
Mar explained that understanding stories was similar to the way people understand the real world, and when they read stories, personal experiences are invoked.
Social outcomes that could come out of being exposed to narrative fiction can include exposure to social content, reflecting on past social interactions, or imagining future interactions. Even though fiction is fabricated, it can communicate truths about human psychology and relationships, he added.
According to a 2010 study Mar and his colleagues published, parents who were able to recognize children's authors and book titles predicted their child's performance on theory-of-mind tests. Parental recognition of adult book titles or author's had no effect on their child's performance, and the result was very specific to children's books.
A recent study also showed that reading a child a tale about honesty had led the child to act more honestly when presented with an opportunity to lie or cheat.
Studies have shown that narrative fiction correlates with better mental-inference ability and more liberal social attitudes.
Experiences that people have in their lives shape the understanding of the world, and imagined experiences through narrative fiction stories were also likely to shape or change people, concluded Mars.