The Harry Potter Generation. . . is more caring?

Does Reading Fiction improve our ability to connect with and understand others?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/sep/07/reading-fiction-empathy-study

Does this mean that folks that don’t read fiction are unable to connect?

If this is true, what are some ways that we might use fiction in therapeutic or educational settings?

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About jchall1960

I'm the instructor for FA 200, Introduction to the Arts at the University of Alabama
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7 Responses to The Harry Potter Generation. . . is more caring?

  1. Nure Kassas says:

    There may be a correlation between reading fiction and increased ability to understand others, but it does not necessarily mean that the former causes the latter. The author does not make a cogent argument. The article does not mention whether or not they tested the empathy levels of the readers with general questions before they gave them the passages, and thus we have no way of knowing for certain whether reading the passages was actually responsible for this increase. Additionally, we also need more information about whether the people who read the passages were able to empathize with others in real life more compared to a control group of people who did not read fiction. A fiction novel such as Harry Potter is considered well-written because of its ability to draw readers into the fantasy world the author created, but does the ability to connect with fictional characters really mean that we would have the ability to connect with others in real-life? Consider, for example, people who spend their entire day playing video games on the Internet. They are in a fantasy world, they are connecting with others over the Internet, and they submerge themselves into this world (they truly believe they are the character they are pretending to be over the Internet). However, a lot of these same people have lost their ability to communicate with others face to face. It seems to me that having an ability to feel like you are part of a fictional world doesn’t necessarily mean you can use these skills in real life.

    Additionally, just because a person does not read fiction does not mean that they are unable to connect. Autobiographies such as The Diary of Ann Frank or other non-fiction books such as Hiroshima that tell the stories of real-life people who have suffered pain or loss can make the reader feel a connection with the people in the books just as much as a fictional story.

    I believe that there are two other factors we must consider when trying to find a link between the genre of the book and the reader’s ability to connect with others:

    1) How well the novel is written- vivid descriptions can help a reader imagine the scenes in a book
    2) Whether or not the reader went through similar experiences as the characters in the book (or whether they witnessed close friends or family members have such experiences)- in the case of Harry Potter, he was an orphan, was bullied when he was younger, and was even somewhat bullied at Hogwarts- perhaps many people can relate to such experiences, I know I can.

  2. imajod says:

    I definitely believe that the fine arts have a strong connection to empathy and the strong ability of human interaction. I am a strong believer in therapeutic methods integrating artistic forms such as dance and art because there is a strong connection between the mind and the body. Physical variables effect mental variables and vice versa.

  3. I believe that the use of fiction and the use of our imagination helps us feed off each other and to come up with new ideas. Reading fiction, in my understanding, does help boost the mind and kick in the creativity that each person holds inside themselves. Fiction can be used also to connect with the non-reality side of life that sparks our minds to go to places that we never thought it could take us!

  4. Reading fiction could improve our ability to connect with others, but it could be more shallow than the study lets on. The study done by Gabriel and Young simply identified the Harry Potter readers associated more with wizards and magic while the Twilight readers associated more with vampires. The increase in social interaction was simply because the individual had a subject to talk to other individuals about. The social satisfaction came from the interaction with the imaginary characters within the story that the individual imagines themselves within the story. Yes, I believe fiction does help to connect to others, but perhaps in the sense that it just gives each other something to talk about.

  5. elgernert says:

    I think that reading fiction helps people connect more with other people and other things. People that dont read fiction are probably more unlikey to be able to connect as well as people who read fiction. This is probably because people who read fiction have more of an imagination and are more creative. We could use fiction in an educational setting by reading fiction to help students become more creative and open their minds up to more things.

  6. mbrandjes says:

    I believe that the fine arts and fiction does lead us to be more caring towards others. Fiction allows us to put ourselves in another’s shoes, one that we may never have been able to even imagine in the first place. Then, when we are out in the real world and are in a situation that we have never been in before we can empathize with the unknown person and their situation. Fiction opens up our minds to what used to be impossible to imagine and therefore we can be more empathetic because of it.

  7. ta1993 says:

    I feel fine arts and fiction are very important in connecting with others. Fiction allows our imagination to really exert itself. You can relate to others by imagining a certain situation and get their opinion or vice versa. You can really open yourself up to someone with fiction and your ideas that go along with it. People that are not into fiction can still relate if they let their mind wander and think about the situation you have presented them. Being in a fine art class you need to be open minded to think about art in a certain way. Fiction can be looked at in the same way, and looking at something in someone else’s point of view can broaden your imagination as well.

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