Emeritus Professor at Toronto University, Keith Oatley was on the Today Programme, erm, today, discussing the remedial power of fiction.
Oatley worked in a small research group, examining how fiction might be good for wellbeing. Oatley and his colleagues looked at how the amount of fiction people read was related to levels of empathy and social understanding, concluding that there was a positive correlation between the amount of fiction people read and their social abilities.
Oatley discussed how this contradicted notions of ‘bookworms’ locking themselves away for hours whilst reading and not making any time for friends. In fact, reading has the ability to help people deal with the social world that surrounds them.
Oatley said fiction was comparable to a ‘flight simulator’, because the immersion of the individual into another world and experiencing characters’ emotional and social encounters can help them understand their own lives. In Oatley’s newly published book, Such Stuff as Dreams, he describes how fiction can engage our minds in thoughts not only about those around us, but ourselves.
This offers further support to The Reader Organisation’s ethos and ongoing projects, providing shared reading groups and reading events utilising novels, short stories, poetry and plays, benefiting the wellbeing of those we reach. Our evaluations prove that we are helping people and research from the likes of Prof. Keith Oatley provide further evidence of the intrinsic link between fiction and wellbeing.