Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2210-4372
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4380
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Many studies have claimed to find that reading fiction leads to improvements in social cognition. But this work has left open the critical question of whether any type of narrative, fictional or nonfictional, might have similar effects. To address this question, as well as to test whether framing a narrative as fiction matters, the current studies presented participants ( = 268 in Study 1;  = 362 in Study 2) with literary fiction texts, narrative nonfiction texts, expository nonfiction texts, or no texts. We tested their theory-of-mind abilities using the picture-based Reading the Mind in the Eyes task and a text-based test of higher-order social cognition. Reading anything was associated with higher scores compared to reading nothing, but the effects of framing and text type were inconsistent. These results suggest that prior claims regarding positive effects of reading fiction on mentalizing should be seen as tenuous; other mechanisms may be driving previously published effects.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): empathy; fiction; framing; narrative; reading; theory of mind
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