''Through a series of studies, we have discovered that fiction at its best isn't just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves. [...]
So if fiction is a kind of simulation of our emotional and social worlds, could it be that people who read a lot of fiction are more empathic and socially intelligent than those who don't? This is the question that Raymond Mar, Jacob Hirsh, Jennifer dela Paz, Jordan Peterson, and I asked in a 2006 study.[...]
The result: The two sets of readers had similar analytical reasoning skills, but the short-story readers showed a stronger understanding of social situations than the essay readers.
How do we explain these results? My colleagues and I think it's a matter of expertise. Fiction is principally about the difficulties of selves navigating the social world. Non-fiction is about, well, whatever it is about: selfish genes, or how to make Mediterranean food, or whether climate changes will harm our planet. So with fiction we tend to become more expert at empathizing and socializing. By contrast, readers of non-fiction are likely to become more expert at genetics, or cookery, or environmental studies, or whatever they spend their time reading and thinking about.[...]''
Will we then instrumentalize our preferred novels, read them in order to improve our social abilities and not because they are enjoyable?