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      Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind.

      Science (New York, N.Y.)
      Adult, Art, Comprehension, physiology, Empathy, Female, Humans, Literature, Male, Psychological Tests, Reading, Theory of Mind

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          Abstract

          Understanding others' mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM (experiments 1 to 5) and cognitive ToM (experiments 4 and 5) compared with reading nonfiction (experiments 1), popular fiction (experiments 2 to 5), or nothing at all (experiments 2 and 5). Specifically, these results show that reading literary fiction temporarily enhances ToM. More broadly, they suggest that ToM may be influenced by engagement with works of art.

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          Most cited references20

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          Dissociable prefrontal networks for cognitive and affective theory of mind: a lesion study.

          The underlying mechanisms and neuroanatomical correlates of theory of mind (ToM), the ability to make inferences on others' mental states, remain largely unknown. While numerous studies have implicated the ventromedial (VM) frontal lobes in ToM, recent findings have questioned the role of the prefrontal cortex. We designed two novel tasks that examined the hypothesis that affective ToM processing is distinct from that related to cognitive ToM and depends in part on separate anatomical substrates. The performance of patients with localized lesions in the VM was compared to responses of patients with dorsolateral lesions, mixed prefrontal lesions, and posterior lesions and with healthy control subjects. While controls made fewer errors on affective as compared to cognitive ToM conditions in both tasks, patients with VM damage showed a different trend. Furthermore, while affective ToM was mostly impaired by VM damage, cognitive ToM was mostly impaired by extensive prefrontal damage, suggesting that cognitive and affective mentalizing abilities are partly dissociable. By introducing the concept of 'affective ToM' to the study of social cognition, these results offer new insights into the mediating role of the VM in the affective facets of social behavior that may underlie the behavioral disturbances observed in these patients.
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            The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” Test Revised Version: A Study with Normal Adults, and Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High-functioning Autism

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              The Parasocial Contact Hypothesis

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                24091705
                10.1126/science.1239918

                Chemistry
                Adult,Art,Comprehension,physiology,Empathy,Female,Humans,Literature,Male,Psychological Tests,Reading,Theory of Mind
                Chemistry
                Adult, Art, Comprehension, physiology, Empathy, Female, Humans, Literature, Male, Psychological Tests, Reading, Theory of Mind

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