Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reading makes you nicer -- and smarter!

Like to read fiction and literature?  I do.  Lots of people look askance at recreational reading, especially fiction.  Not so fast!  A recent article at reports the following:
"Gregory Currie, a professor of philosophy at the University of Nottingham, recently argued in the New York Times that we ought not to claim that literature improves us as people, because there is no “compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy” or other great books.
image of UW graduateActually, there is such evidence. Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, and Keith Oatley, a professor emeritus of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, reported in studies published in 2006 and 2009 that individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. This link persisted even after the researchers factored in the possibility that more empathetic individuals might choose to read more novels. A 2010 study by Mar found a similar result in young children: the more stories they had read to them, the keener their “theory of mind,” or mental model of other people’s intentions.
“Deep reading” — as opposed to the often superficial reading we do on the Web — is an endangered practice, one we ought to take steps to preserve as we would a historic building or a significant work of art. Its disappearance would imperil the intellectual and emotional development of generations growing up online, as well as the perpetuation of a critical part of our culture: the novels, poems and other kinds of literature that can be appreciated only by readers whose brains, quite literally, have been trained to apprehend them."
Read the rest of the article at

And, in a related note, read this editorial from a student in the Daily Cardinal, "I Dare You to Read This Entire Thing," where she talks about her generation's inability to read at any depth.

Photo image courtesy of UW Archives.  "(UW) Graduate with stack of books, ca.1951"  (UW.uwar00889.bib)

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