Reading books on a regular basis helps children and adults develop social-cognitive skills such as empathy. It allows us to also sympathize with characters more effectively and rapidly when we read. The research was publicized by Radboud University.
To investigate the relationship between reading stories and social-cognitive skills, the study’s author, Lynn Eekhof, had hundreds of people read a range of stories to observe how they read them and how that linked with their social-cognitive skills.
During her research, Eekhof also utilized an eye-movement camera.
However, according to a previous discovery that circulated in the media for some time but appears to have been debunked, reading just one story is not a solution for a lack of empathy. Eekhof’s research indicated that reading just one story could have a modest negative impact on our social-cognitive ability. This appears counterintuitive, but Eekhof relates it to strength training.
“In the same way that doing ten push-ups temporarily fatigues our arm muscles, reading one story temporarily exhausts our social-cognitive muscles,” according to Eekhof.
“In the long term, however, doing a set of push-ups on a daily or weekly basis will have a positive effect on our muscles. In much the same way, extensive and regular reading of stories also has a reinforcing effect on social cognition.”