According to a new scientific study in Science journal, reading literary fiction can greatly improve our ability to understand one another in complex social settings.

Social psychologists at The New School, working within the relatively new field called “theory of the mind” conducted a series of five experiments measuring things such as “empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.”

Researchers have determined that this increased emotional sensitivity is brought on by inferences readers make when reading works of fiction, predicting what characters may do when put into certain situations. Participants ranging from age eighteen to seventy-five were each assigned to read a short passage from a fictional work and were then asked to take a series of computerized tests determining the emotions of others.

According to science/Science,

…after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

(Image: She Knows)