Monday, May 9, 2011

Empathy and Literature

Literature creates empathy in the reader, according to a University of Buffalo study. They argue that

reading satisfies a deeply felt need for human connection because we not only feel like the characters we read about but, psychologically speaking, become part of their world and derive emotional benefits from the experience.

They have developed what they call The Narrative Collective Assimilation Hypothesis, which states that,

by absorbing narratives, we can psychologically become a member of the group of characters described therein, a process that makes us feel connected to those characters and their social world.

"Social connection is a strong, human need," Gabriel says, "and anytime we feel connected to others, we feel good in general, and feel good about our lives. Our study results demonstrate that the assimilation of a narrative allows us to feel close to others in the comfort of our own space and at our own convenience.

"In our subjects, this led to a reported increase in life satisfaction and positive mood, which are two primary outcomes of belonging," she says.

This no doubt have important ramifications for understanding why we should be reading literature, something I have developed on my blog, Interdisciplinary World, in a posting titled Why Should Science and Technology Majors Study Literature. However, they point out that the empathy becomes so strong that

Their subjects not only connected with the characters or groups they read about, however. They adopted the behaviors, attitudes and traits that they could realistically approximate

This is a strong sense of identification. What else is able to create this level of identification?

No comments:

Post a Comment