A couple of days ago, my boyfriend sent me this article from NPR about a new study that was given to readers of literary fiction, popular fiction, and non-fiction. Participants were shown black and white photos of people's eyes and were asked to pinpoint which emotion they were feeling. The study, though it's not trying to discredit popular fiction, proves that people who read even just a little bit of literary fiction have an increased perception of other people's thoughts and feelings. Basically, literary fiction readers can read people just as well as books ;)
Why? In the article, it is stated that popular fiction focuses more on plot and keeping the readers attention. It's a more explicit reading experience. By explicit, I mean that everything is out on the table as far as characters feelings, and we don't have to work very hard to know what they are thinking. The example I gave my boyfriend is, "When Sarah walked into the room, I could tell she was mad by the way her fists were clenched." We see her anger, but we are also told about her anger. The article describes literary fiction as being more about the psychology and inner workings of a character's mind and life. In literary fiction, we might have to read Sarah a little more to see exactly how she is feeling. We'd see her body language, follow context clues, and then determine she was angry without the help of a narrator.
It's a fascinating study to me, and made me want to try and read more literary fiction. Admittedly, now that I am out of school, I've more or less kicked classics to the curb, even though it was a resolution of mine to work more classics into my reading life.
If you'd like to take a similar quiz to the participants in the study, the New York Times posted one here. I got a 29/36. Let me know in the comments what you got!
What do you think? Do you think this study is valid? When you comment with your score, also let me know what genre you primarily read!