Posted by & filed under Child Development, Early Social and Emotional development, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Social Cognition, Social Psychology.

Description: Are you a good reader of other people’s emotions. That is, when you watch someone’s facial expression and particularly when you look at their eyes are you very good at telling how they’re feeling? If you are, or if you’re not, what life experiences do you think have contributed to your level of ability in this particular area? The article below suggests one area of experience that can have an impact on the skill. After you have thought a bit about possible influences on the ability to read others emotions give the article read.

Source: Literary fiction readers understand others emotions better, study finds, Allison Flood, the Guardian, home, culture, books.

Date: August 23, 2016


Photo Credit:  Martin Argles for the Guardian

Links:  Article Link —

Researchers in the study described in the article linked above and relationship between the number of literary authors participants were able to recognize from a long list of names in the participant’s ability to “read” people’s emotional state from their facial expressions. This is in contrast to people who recognized more genre authors names in the provided list. Literary authors such as Salman Rushdie present complex human situations along with complex human reactions whereas genre writers such as Danielle Steele and Clive Cussler typically present more formulaic human situations along with more predictable human responses. The researchers point out that important aspect of human development involves the ability to read other people. Specifically, the ability to understand or to develop a theory of mind through which one begins to make a guesses or to gather data about what’s going on inside other people’s minds is developmentally important and critical for mature and social interaction. It may well be that the writing of literary authors serves as a sort of advanced course in theory of mind.

Would you like to know how well developed your theory of mind is? If so, take the “reading the mind in the eyes” test and find out ( ).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is theory of mind and how is it involved in the development of our ability to “read” others by examining their facial expressions in ongoing social interaction?
  2. What sort of life experiences my children draw on in developing their theory of mind in the late preschool and early school-aged years?
  3. How might the findings reported in the linked study above be utilized in elementary and high school curriculums to help children and youth tune their theory of mind to more sophisticated levels?

References (Read Further):

Kidd, D., & Castano, E. (2016). Different Stories: How Levels of Familiarity With Literary and Genre Fiction Relate to Mentalizing.

Baron‐Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test revised version: A study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high‐functioning autism. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 42(2), 241-251.

Richell, R. A., Mitchell, D. G. V., Newman, C., Leonard, A., Baron-Cohen, S., & Blair, R. J. R. (2003). Theory of mind and psychopathy: can psychopathic individuals read the ‘language of the eyes’?. Neuropsychologia, 41(5), 523-526.