3 MIN READ | Health Psychology

Time to Read: Fascinating Benefits of Reading Fiction

Dennis Relojo-Howell

Cite This
Dennis Relojo-Howell, (2016, November 18). Time to Read: Fascinating Benefits of Reading Fiction. Psychreg on Health Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/benefits-of-reading-fiction/
Reading Time: 3 minutes

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When was the last time you read a book, or an informative article online online? Do your daily reading habits merely centre around tweets, mundane Facebook updates, or the cooking instructions of ready meals? If you’re one of countless people who refuse to make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out.

We need to read; but reading doesn’t have to be all high-brow and boring. You can, of course, read works of fiction. Reading fiction has all sorts of advantages. For a start, several studies reveal that reading fiction improves empathy and thus makes one more likely to suspend judgement of different values and participate in compassionate behaviour.

Readers have different expectations from fiction and non-fiction. Proof is a major issue with non-fiction; emotional involvement is a major issue with fiction. And perhaps these expectations are also responsible for enhancing non-fiction readers’ better performance on theory of mind tasks.

Reading fiction also improves the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination. The stories of Cinderella and Snow White are more than just fairy tales read to us when we were young – these have mould our early concepts of what is right and wrong.

Through reading fiction, our imagination blossoms. Literary fiction is an incredible example of art because it allows remarkable room for our interpretation. With expanded creativity, you discover new ideas that can take any idea to the next level.

More than just arousing our imaginations, it is also by reading fictions such as Jane Austen’s novels that I have found myself, and in the process, realised my true emotions when reading, as well as my wants and needs. When we read, the fetters of social pressure are released, and we find ourselves looking at life in the perspective we’ve always believed to be true but hid from ourselves and others. Reading helps us to discern our most important priorities including goals for personal improvement.

Stories organise us personally and emotionally. They make life not only more meaningful, but also more tolerable manageable – and even more. Reading stories gives us the opportunity to nurture wisdom. Stories expand our minds and help to enrich our moral capacity.

Still, I have to give credit to non-fiction works because it is from them that we gain knowledge (useful facts and information). It is through textbooks that I learned to appreciate the science behind human behaviour. However, it is fiction which reveals wisdom, or the ability to apply knowledge, through exposure to various intricate and imagined situations.

Reading, be it fiction or non-fiction, can also provide us with a sense of calm in just a few minutes.  A number of studies have shown that reading can be relaxing and can help us reduce our stress levels – which could be because our minds begin to wander and relax.

Curling up with a captivating novel now and then may not be ‘practical’ in that it will not help us gain ‘practical knowledge’, but it should remain a part of our lives. In an increasingly utilitarian, technology-oriented society, fiction has become ever more relevant. It is more relevant than non-fiction because it possesses the ability to make us humans. Even if you’re not an avid reader, reading fiction can activate your creativity, increase your levels of empathy, make you a better speaker and much more.

I’m not suggesting you drop non-fiction altogether. But add a little fiction to your reading plan. If you’re strictly a nonfiction person, pick a well-regarded novel to read this year. Start somewhere.


Dennis Relojo-Howell is the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and for other online publications.


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