Why Fiction Matters

Why Fiction Matters

Top of Mind with Julie Rose

Why Fiction Matters, Performing Under Pressure

Episode: Why Fiction Matters, Performing Under Pressure

  • Apr 17, 2015 9:00 pm
  • 51:12 mins

Guests: David Kidd, postdoctoral fellow at The New School for Social Research in New York. He's also the lead author on "Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind" Stephen Tuttle, BYU English professor specializing in creative writing, fiction writing, and American Literature According to research done at The New School for Social Research in New York, reading fiction has the power to make you more empathetic. Maybe even improve your interpersonal skills.  So today, we’re delving into the power and purpose of fiction. Why read it? How does it influence us? Is one brand of fiction better for society than another? “The research has shown that fiction gives you more empathy," says Dr. Kidd. “One thing that we are particularly interested in is not so much deciding what sort of fiction is better or worse. That’s really up to the individual reader to decide what they like. But, we’re interested in the consequences of engaging with different fictional worlds. One of the things social psychologists study is how different social environments impact how we perceive other people, how we perceive ourselves, and what sorts of things that we value. And, one of the things that interested me as a researcher, was how much time we spend in fictional worlds that operate using some of the rules that make the real world work. We’re interested in whether or not the sources of the fictional world we engage with affects what we pay attention to and how we interpret things in our real world environment.” “This research of Dr. Kidd’s certainly confirms something that I am inclined to believe and absolutely squares with what I find as a teacher. What I’ve found in the classroom is that there is something that happens to a student when we ask them to read texts on their own, outside the class. They understand to a certain degree what’s going on in the text and large chunks of plot. And, as we start to talk about text and break down what’s going on, I think they realize that the text has had an impact on them that they were not aware of.  Something that’s happening under the surface. That they are thinking through much larger, ethical and moral problems," says Tuttle.