The eReader was a great invention for YA fiction-addicted adults everywhere—for those who dared read that awful Twilight gender swap book without getting flack from coworkers! In PRE eReader days, there was no hiding your reading preferences from the lunchroom crowd: your cover was right there for the world to see!
(YOU know what I’m talking about, you book addict, you. I know I’m not the only one who got odd looks for reading Harry Potter during my law school downtime, instead of catching up on Wills and Trusts…)
But the eReader era brought a breath of relief, didn’t it? Thousands of books at your fingertips, and no one is any the wiser as to whether you’re reading Hunger Games or an age-appropriate, snooze-worthy biography on the subway. Because hey, all eReaders look essentially the same from the back, don’t they?
But good news! Socially outcast bookworms everywhere now have reason to rejoice! There’s no reason to hide that copy of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer behind your Chemistry textbook anymore. Contrary to what the popular “antisocial bookworm” stigmas might have you believe, recent studies have shown that reading fiction actually helps you understand social cues better than your rather boring coworker who “only reads the New York Times, thanks.”
As Scientific American put it:
“… stories are simulations of a kind that can help readers understand not just the characters in books, but human character in general… The seemingly solitary act of holing up with a book… is actually an exercise in human interaction… it can hone your social brain, so that when you put your book down, you may be better prepared for camaraderie, collaboration, even love.”
According to the smarty pants scientists running these studies, reading fiction actually STRENGTHENS my social ties and INCREASES my empathy towards others. How’doya like that, Professor?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this fiction reading simulation thing also applies to any future zombie apocalypse that may or may not take place in the near future. Look, all I’m saying is that if reading fiction is a simulation for real life, I’ve got this zombie thing under control.
But, if you really wanna get nit picky about genres, literary fiction is your best bet for understanding emotional intelligence. In a study published by the journal, Science, researches found that:
“… 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 handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.”
Apparently this is because literary fiction leaves more to the imagination than, say, fantasy does. (Um… okay? Not sure I agree with that…) But in turn, this “encourages readers to be more sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.”
This “fiction-induced empathy” is serious business, you guys. Through a series of MRIs, Scientific American proved that while reading fiction, a person’s emotions mirror that of the protagonists. (So basically, it’s okay that you cried when Dumbledore died—it’s just science!) And it is exactly these fictional, empathetic feelings that prepare us for handling emotions in real life.
So DOWN with the antisocial bookworm stigma! Books aren’t just an escape from the “real world” anymore… they’re a vehicle to understanding human emotion. Bring it on Wallflowers. It’s your time to shine!