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"Readers of literary fiction must draw on more flexible interpretative resources to infer the feelings and thoughts of characters," said the researchers David Kidd and Emanuele Castano at the New School for Social Research. "That is, they must engage Theory of Mind processes [ToM refers to our ability to represent and understand other people's thoughts and feelings]."
The researchers' belief is that the active ingredient of literary fiction is the way such books "engage their readers creatively as writers ... The absence of a single authorial perspective prompts readers to enter a vibrant discourse with the author and her characters." However, they conceded that their findings "are only preliminary and much research is needed."
Nonetheless, if replicated and elucidated in further research, there could be important educational and cultural implications to arise from these new findings, especially at a time when many policy-makers are calling for less emphasis on fiction in secondary education. For now however we're a long way from knowing exactly what aspects of Theory of Mind benefit from reading literary fiction and why. It's also not yet established how long the benefits last, and whether the effects of reading short passages (as in this study) is any different from the experience of reading an entire novel.
reply to post by Advantage
Oh man, wondered through the walls of Palahniuk in Fight Club. Some seriously good #. Though I kicked myself for seeing the film first. Couldn't get into Rant though, and Snuff's lying in wait somewhere. Just reading Contortionist Handbook by a guy called Craig Clevenger, was in Palahniuks recommendations, and we're getting on pretty well also Alex Garland's The Beach is probably one of my all time favs.