Read Literary Fiction. It is Good for You.

Recent research has shown that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, can affect a person’s Theory of Mind (ToM).  What is Theory of Mind exactly?  It’s a theory that posits that people aware of one’s own mental attributes, and those of others – and recognized that people have different thoughts and beliefs.

Two researchers at The New School found through a series of experiments that literary fiction enhanced participants’ Theory of Mind (ToM) or the complex social skill of “mind-reading” to understand others’ mental states. Their paper was published in the Oct. 3 issue of Science.

What does this mean for Placing Literature?  Everything! First and foremost, we are all about any research that shows that reading builds connections and understanding of others and the world around us.   Secondly, we feel in our guts that there are profound reasons that art and science are both explanations of the world that are important and complement each other.  This research is a step on the road to confirming that hypothesis.

 The researchers, Ph.D. candidate David Comer Kidd and his advisor, professor of psychology Emanuele Castano, felt that literary fiction had s different effect on ToM because of the way it involves the reader – complex stories and characters engage the reader to follow characters’ the journeys, sit in the cafes, trek down the rivers and meet other characters in the places they are. Readers become engaged, emotionally involved, in the stories.

We here at Placing Literature are trying to find ways that engaging in literature may be a vehicle for engaging in real places – real places where people have attachments.

Do you have an idea of how we can do this?  How would you do it?  Please join the discussion and post a comment below.  We will be following-up in the next weeks with case studies of how Placing Literature will contribute to creating communities.

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