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The Effect of Fictional Literature on Empathy in Children
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1  West Coast University, Miami


The purpose of this paper is to identify the correlation between reading fictional literature and an increased level of empathy in children. Using an fMRI machine this paper studies the level of empathy that children who read significantly more or significantly less than one another experience while listening to Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling. The findings concluded that the anterior medial prefrontal cortex in children who read significantly more every week is more active than in children who do not. Children who read significantly more are also more likely to detect a situation for which empathy is the proper response and in turn respond empathetically. The results of this study hold significance for the education system, which in the past 15 years has shifted toward teaching for the purpose of standardized testing scores. As this study shows reading fictional literature increases learning outcomes in children that benefits them into adulthood, in turn, benefitting society as a whole. Therefore, the education system needs to focus on teaching fictional literature accompanied by empathy-based discussion, rather than how to take standardized tests. This will increase learning outcomes in children and benefit society through the development of empathetical adults.

Keywords: reading, literature, empathy, fMRI, prefrontal cortex