empathy

Reading Helps You Develop Empathy, But Only If You Pick The Right Books

Emotional Intelligence, Social Skills

We all know that books make us smarter, but did you know they also help us better relate to other people?

Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from the New School of Social Research in New York, showed that reading award-winning novels and short stories improves our ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that those who read critically-acclaimed literary texts were better able to guess what others are going through.

They scored higher on tasks like the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test, where participants are asked to guess the feelings being expressed by different sets of eyes in photos.

Empathy Training

According to Kidd and Castano, interpreting the thoughts and emotions of literary characters is just like trying to make sense of people in real life.

“The same psychological processes are used to navigate fiction and real relationships,” says Kidd. “Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience.”

As such, reading is great practice for real-life interactions. With added benefits: it poses fewer risks than the real world, and gives us the chance to explore the inner lives of others beyond stereotypes and convention.

Why Best-Sellers Don’t Work

But only challenging works of fiction give us the opportunity to exercise our empathy skills, researchers say.

What Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë can give you that Nicholas Sparks can’t? Internally unpredictable characters, implicit meanings, and multiple perspectives — a combination that engages us, as readers, in the active role of making sense of characters’ actions and the story as a whole.

“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” says Kidd.

By forcing us to “fill in the gaps” and search for meanings among many possible ones, novels and stories flex our interpretation muscles. In doing so, they prepare us for the tough job of understanding  people in real life.

Marcelle Santos
Marcelle Santos
Mars turns complicated ideas into content that's easy to understand and interesting to follow. At Wonder, she's diving deep into emotional intelligence and the psychology of relationships to come up with what she hopes is useful and inspiring information for users of the Wonder app.

5 Animations That Will Make You Better at Life

Emotional Intelligence

As a concept, emotional intelligence can seem a little abstract.

Most of us get it in theory, but it’s hard knowing what it looks like in real life. Luckily, the internet has an enormous amount of resources that can help us understand EQ better. We went ahead and did the hard work for you, going through the good, the bad, and the ugly EQ-related videos on YouTube to bring you this delightful list of informative and inspiring animations. Each of them will teach you about one of the five key components of emotional intelligence, and hopefully inspire you to grow. We hope you enjoy them!

Empathy

We’ve all tried to help a friend in need at some point in our lives. Problem is, most of us have been going about it in the wrong way. In this beautifully animated talk, Brené Brown explains the difference between offering sympathy and having empathy — and why the latter works best.

Self-regulation

Sometimes saying “no” to ourselves in the present is difficult, but it essential for our future happiness. In this cute little animation from Epipheo, Kelly McGonigal explains the different types of willpower that we need to overcome our daily desires, and how a little self-regulation can allow us to focus on what’s really important in our lives.

 Self-awareness

In order to make changes in your life, you need to understand your own emotions, and the strengths and limitations that go with them. This beautiful animation, produced by students from the Gobelins Film School, depicts one woman’s attempt to take control of her own life…and her imaginary crocodile!

Motivation

What motivates us to get up in the morning for work? According to Dan Pink in this wonderful short from RSA, it’s not the financial carrot on a stick that drives us forward, but something deep within ourselves.

Social skills

Social skills are a very visible part of emotional intelligence, and probably the most important to success.  Without social skills, we can’t build meaningful relationships with people, and we struggle to get ahead in our careers. Where our social skills come from, and how they develop is still up for debate, but according to this informative short from NPR, play could be the answer!


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