Hard to look away, isn’t it?
This adorable little Jane’s portrait, artfully rendered, sends our brains reeling—what’s her story?
The gaudy floral hat and bright face paint belie the wistfulness of her eyes—what’s going on in there?
As it turns out, your interpretation of her facial expression may be linked to the books you read.
Curious? Read on …
A 2013 study, published by researchers from The New School for Social Research in New York City, found that the ability to identify the emotions of others correlates with a reader’s literary choices.
“Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” the study’s abstract begins. “Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind.”
The study’s 1,000 participants were divided into two groups: one read literary fiction (like Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife), and the other read popular fiction (think Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl). After reading, all were asked to identify someone’s emotions using facial cues. Those who read literary fiction scored consistently higher by about 10 percent.
“We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple,” Emanuele Castano, one of the researchers, explained to Mic.com.
So … having trouble understanding the feelings of your coworkers, or maybe even your spouse?
Try tackling Chekhov in your spare time.