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29 Dec 2011

The Value of Fiction

Some years ago, having just read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, the eleven-year-old daughter of a friend said, ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever thought about what it would be like to be someone else.’ Yes! I thought. Gotcher! I’d always maintained that reading fiction gave you a better understanding of the human condition – young Sophie had come up with a less pompous version of the same thought.

Anyway, pompous or not, it’s now official. According to Andrew Taylor in The Author magazine, a psychologist based at the University of Toronto has established that ‘when readers speculate about fictional characters, their dilemmas and their motives, it tends to develop their ability to empathise and their social skills’. Encouragingly for those of us who read a lot of whodunits, ‘the quality of the fiction…seems to be irrelevant’.

So I’m making a New Year resolution to read more novels. It’ll make me a better person and I’m more likely to keep that than the usual ones involving chocolate and wine.

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