Mind Power Issue #46

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Issue #46 – Monday, Jan. 30, 2017

In today's issue of Mind Power my good friend, Pete Bissonette, shares a powerful insight on the power of a good book. Learn how reading fiction creates empathy and awareness, and increases your ability to connect to other people.

And, speaking of books, Pete is also launching a fantastic new book, called Breakfast Tea and Bourbon, an uplifting novel that is also laced with hidden secrets that can lead you to a real-life treasure of $50,000! Someone is going to find it; maybe it will be you...

Be well.

Boost Empathy with Books

by Pete Bissonette

As the days get shorter and cold air begins to bite, the thought of spending an evening curled up with a good book and hot tea is enticing.


At minimum, you have an evening of free entertainment. Perhaps more surprisingly, reading fiction can also improve your social skills, suggests new research from the University of Toronto and published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.


According to lead researcher and psychologist Keith Oatley, reading fiction simulates a social reality, prompting understanding and empathy in the reader.

To test this, Oatley and his team conducted a “Mind of the Eyes Test” in which adult participants viewed 36 photographs of people’s eyes.


For each photo, participants were asked to choose one of four terms to describe the emotion behind each set of eyes—reflective, aghast, irritated, or impatient.


Participants who read novels before completing the test scored significantly higher at identifying the accurate emotions than their peers who read nonfiction books.


This indicated a higher level of empathy in fiction readers.


Similar empathy-boosting effects can be found in television dramas and videogames with a storyline, said Oatley. He believes any form of fiction in which you engage with characters you can think about can enhance and help you understand your social experience.


“What’s a piece of fiction, what’s a novel, what’s a short story, what’s a play or movie or television series? It’s a piece of consciousness being passed from mind to mind,” Oatley explained.


“When you’re reading or watching a drama, you’re taking in a piece of consciousness that you make your own. That seems an exciting idea.”


Your brain uses the same cognitive function to understand fiction as it does to understand the real world, York University psychologist Raymond Mar said during a lecture to the American Psychological Association and reported in a news release from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.


Your past experiences shape your current understanding of the world, he explained. As you navigate through life, these experiences help determine what you think and which actions you take.


Because your brain doesn’t have a process for comprehending fiction that is unique to comprehending real life, stories can vastly increase your experience bank as well as the perspectives from which you view the world. According to Mar, this can lead to an increased ability to identify others’ feelings and a more liberal social view.


Although he cautions it’s not magic, Mar recommended reading fiction as “an opportunity for growth and change.”


As you dive in to your next novel, take time to notice the interactions, relationships, viewpoints, and events you experience. How might they shape how you interact in the world and with the people you come into contact with each day?


60-Second Secret

Read Your Way to Better Living

Reading improves your writing, verbal and social skills, as well as your overall intelligence and empathy. It even improves your speaking and listening abilities. And it makes you smarter. (And more interesting.) Reading puts you in the flow of time, and becomes a reward in itself.

Check it Out!

A Real Life Treasure Hunt for $50,000

Pete's new book, Breakfast Tea & Bourbon, will be out soon and is available for pre-order now! In this free-spirited novel (no pun intended) he shows a way to inner joy and happiness through an outer game – a real-life treasure hunt with a $50,000 cash prize – that demands we tap into our creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.

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Wise Words

The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you'll go. -Dr Seuss

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