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Brain & Cognition seminar – Talk Julia Langkau (Lecture series)

25 April 2023 @ 12 h 15 min - 13 h 15 min

Can reading fiction teach us empathic skills? Psychological research suggests that reading fiction can have a positive effect on our ability to empathize in real life. I argue that while we can train certain aspects of empathy by reading fiction, a crucial skill cannot be trained: the skill of reading the evidence for the other person’s state of mind and getting their mental state right. Because fiction presents us with a different kind of evidence than real life usually does, the skill acquired through fiction does not carry over to real-life situations. If reading fiction has a positive impact on our empathic skills in real life, it is not because we practice the relevant skill in the context of fiction. However, it might be because it motivates us to practice in real life.