Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Kidd, David Comer; Castano, Emanuele
Year of Publication: 2013
Journal: Science
Volume: 342
Issue: 6156
Pagination: 377-80
Date Published: 2013 Oct 18
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1095-9203
Keywords: Adult, Art, Comprehension, Empathy, Female, Humans, Literature, Male, Psychological Tests, Reading, theory of mind

Understanding others' mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1239918
Alternate Journal: Science