Friday 27 June 2008

The Science of Fiction

On the magazine racks today is the 28 June 2008 issue of New Scientist which contains an article by Keith Oatley entitled "The Science of Fiction" (Vol. 198, # 2662, pp. 42-43). It describes our research on how reading fiction is associated with improved social skills, and on how this kind of reading can enable changes in readers' personalities. Also just published is the book edited by Sonia Zyngier, Marisa Bortolussi, Anna Chesnokova, and Jan Auracher (2008) Directions in empirical studies in literature. Amsterdam: Benjamins, in which Raymond Mar, Maja Djikic, and Keith Oatley have a more detailed article entitled "Effects of reading on knowledge, social abilities, and selfhood: Theory and empirical studies" (pp. 127-137).

In the Nineteenth Century it was thought that the Classics, including the fiction of Homer and Sophocles, gave a grounding for life. Then, in the Twentieth Century, people sought self-improvement from reading the great novels of the Nineteenth Century. The article in New Scientist and the one in the Zyngier et al. book give accounts of our research (some of which can be accessed by clicking here), which shows that the earlier ideas of benefits from reading fiction were not misplaced.

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