Likoper/ShutterstockAfter a long hard day at work, many of us look forward to nothing more than some much-needed R&R at home, whether it’s binge-watching our favorite Netflix shows, getting sucked into a video game, or settling in with a great read. If you fall into the last camp, you’re likely to rank high on kindness and empathy skills, according to recent research from Kingston University.
The survey-based study looked at 123 adults and assessed their entertainment preferences along with their interpersonal skill levels. Each participant in the study answered questions (anonymously), ranging from the type of books, TV, and movies they like, to how they cope with certain social situations.
The results revealed something surprising about how we engage with these mediums. Postgraduate research student Rose Turner found a striking link between bookworms and their levels of empathy and kindness. People who generally read rather than, say, watch TV, seem to have better social skills. “This study demonstrates that the different ways that people engage with fiction can impact their emotional intelligence and emphatic behaviors,” Turner recently explained to Science Daily.
So what is it about reading a book and being a bookworm that helps you practice empathy and kindness and boost your interpersonal skills? And, how is it any different than watching a series online? Well, interestingly enough, Turner believes that it’s the missing information in the literature that drives people to use their powers of empathy, their understanding of how others think and feel. “When we read we go by what is simply written on the page and we have to fill in the gaps as we go along, it gives us a chance to develop empathetic skills as we try to understand what a character is going through. Whereas when we watch something on a screen, we are provided with a lot of that information already,” Turner told Science Daily.
The truth of the matter is that readers have to dig deeper when it comes to understanding the characters in their preferred form of fiction. When you watch a show, everything from the characters’ feelings to their motives is laid out for us on the screen. On the flip side, when you read a book, you have to think on another level to uncover the delicate undertones. It’s just that act that could help bookworms enhance their kindness and social skills no end.
While the results of this study by no means suggest that we shouldn’t binge-watch the latest season of Orange is the New Black, they perhaps show that it’s better to strike a balance. Every now and then, just picking up a book may make us better people.
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