BREAKING NEWS: Science Says Reading Makes You More Social!
Good news, Sparklers: science says that all those hours you spent in your room as a kid hunched over books and deliberately not playing outside actually made you more socially competent, not less. Turns out that your parents' dire warnings that you would die alone and friendless (albeit really well-read) with all the world's cats are unfounded. Each and every one of us spent whole days eschewing human contact when the new Harry Potter book came out, and it only made us STRONGER. (Take that, Mom and Dad.)
Some scientists over at New York's New School for Social Research discovered that people tend to score higher on tests that measure emotional intelligence, empathy, and the ability to recognize social cues after reading. This, for me, is good news, because I was worried the only thing I was getting out of reading was the ability to become supremely emotionally invested in fictional characters who were doomed to meet tragic ends.
These science bros gave people a bunch of reading material and then chucked them into social situations to test their endurance. No, I kid, they really did just give them tests. (But if I'd been in charge of the experiment, I would've forced them to go to a party, or, like, on a date with Zac Efron, just to see how things went. This is why I was not in charge of the experiment. They also didn't ask me.)
But they did make some interesting distinctions. People scored higher on the tests when they had been exposed to literary fiction, like perhaps The Great Gatsby, as opposed to genre fiction, like Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, or nonfiction, like Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong. (Actually a thing.) The reason, they believe, is because literary fiction demands that you discern the nuances and complexities inherent in human nature when it comes to characters and their thought processes and interactions, whereas genre fiction is more plot-driven. Personally, I don’t know whether to be relieved because something I love so dearly causes increased social skills (as opposed to, say, increased homicidal tendencies), skeptical (I mean, I’m a lifelong reader and my social skills are like 2/10... WHAT HAPPENED?), or quite frankly alarmed (I mean, jeez, how much less social would I be today if I hadn’t taken a liking to books? The prospect is kind of unsettling).
So the takeaway here is that before you do something social, like go on a date or, you know, order a pizza (which is a social situation just rife with potential missteps that I'm still not equipped to handle), you should shove your nose into Pride and Prejudice for a while. Apparently it will imbue a normally socially hopeless person with superpowers. You will be a social butterfly force to be reckoned with. It will also give you great analytical conversation topics that you can whip out at a moment's notice, like "How would the overarching themes of the novel change if Darcy had been rich with snickerdoodles instead of money?" or "Would Elizabeth's transformation into a dolphin mid-novel make the novel a) comical or b) tragic? Discuss." I maintain that these would work just as well on a first date as they would with the pizza boy. If you're lucky, they might lead to a date with the pizza boy. Score one for SCIENCE.
How awesome is it that all our dorkiness is finally going to pay off?! GO SCIENCE!