In a new review a psychologist Keith Oatley from the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto, Canada, claims that reading fiction can be more beneficial than we realise, as it has the ability to encourage empathy.
Reviewing findings from previous studies assessing an association of fiction and person’s social skills, he also talks about a study conducted by himself and his colleagues that investigated how reading fiction can influence readers’ empathetic response in the real world.
He points to one study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess the brain’s response to imagination-inducing phrases, such as “a dark blue carpet” or an “orange-striped pencil.” “Just three such phrases were enough to produce the most activation of the hippocampus, a brain region associated with learning and memory. This points to the power of the reader’s own mind,” says Oatley.
More details here.