Another day, another study. Apparently, we now know it to be a scientific fact that reading literary fiction, as opposed to non-literary fiction (please don’t ask me what those terms mean: they aren’t mine), improves your “people skills”. It helps you understand other people better, helps you relate to them more effectively, and so on. In short, it makes you a better person, and a good egg all round.
The report in the Telegraph reads:
Some volunteers were asked to read…
Whoa, hold on there! “Some volunteers”? That doesn’t say much for statistical significance. Well, let’s not worry about details: “some volunteers” it is.
Some volunteers were asked to read excerpts of recent award-winning novels or short stories, while others were asked to read either parts of popular fiction bestsellers or non-fiction pieces from Smithsonian Magazine.
The readers were then subjected to a series of five tests meant to gauge how well they could guess what a person was feeling, for instance by looking at a picture of a facial expression or answering questions about how a given character would act under certain circumstances.
The best scores were obtained by those who had just read excerpts of literary fiction, while those who read popular or non-fiction showed little improvement in their ability to judge the actor’s mood.
Well, I never! So literature is good for you after all! What a relief! And here I was thinking I’ve been wasting my time pursuing it for so many years!
Maybe, some day, we may give up trying to justify it on the basis of alleged side-benefits, and value literature for its literary qualities. And then, we could stop seeing it merely as a tool to help us get on better with or neighbours and colleagues, or as a means of asserting one’s racial identity, or whatever.
Now, wouldn’t that be a novelty?