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Avid readers often praise fiction for helping them understand others’ perspectives, and considerable research suggests an empirical basis for this connection. However, research on fiction’s interpersonal effects generally deals with sub-components of empathy (theory of mind, out-group bias, emotional empathy, etc), yielding disorganized results. It remains unclear what the overarching pattern is, and what fiction we ought to read to better understand others. This project contributes to this field by synthesizing existing research in a podcast format. Through interviews with cognitive scientists, philosophers, and literary scholars, it asks what central patterns can be derived from the empirical data and which forms of fiction most consistently correlate with which aspect(s) of empathy. Additionally, this research discusses the more contentious philosophical question of whether or not these social traits, potentially cultivated through fiction, are ethically useful. Lastly, this project explores how this information should influence the way our society engages with fiction.



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Does Fiction Make Us More Empathetic? Psychological, Literary, and Philosophical Perspectives