Most people view avid readers as shut-ins or socially removed. But an interesting study on the people who read lots of fiction shows that these people are quite the opposite. It shows that fiction readers are better at telling the emotion of someone’s face in a picture than non-readers, a standard test used in psychology.
Contrary to the “shut-in” view, reading fiction acts like a mental social workout. It activates your brain in the same way as if you were actually in the situations being described in that which you read. The overarching ability it develops is that of empathy (defined: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another).
Furthermore, read the same factual content from a Chekov novel written in a divorce court hearing fashion (simple, factual), and no empathy is produced.
I find it amazing that words on a page can illicit such strong physical responses from us. We are really wired for connection…