The York University Magazine

YorkU Fall 2014

The alumni magazine of York University

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Page 12 of 39

YorkU Fall 2014 13 here's nothing worse than receiving advice of the unwanted or unasked-for kind. But don't worry; the three York researchers we feature here are neither offering it nor suggesting people adopt their ideas in the name of self- improvement. Rather, they are presenting solid research based on rigorous academic inquiry that just might have a positive spillover effect on everyday life. Novel Approach If there's one thing that 's certain, it's that York University psychology Professor Raymond Mar's research is a page-turner. That's because Mar has found reading may be good for us in ways far beyond simple "book learning." In fact, he has discov- ered that reading is associated with our ability to understand what other people are thinking and feeling. Mar has done a number of research studies on the role that fiction plays in predicting interpersonal sensitivity, which is the abilitiy to assess others using non-verbal cues. The results, Mar says, suggest it is theoretically possible that socially awkward people might become more socially adept if they just read more, but he is quick to emphasize that his theory has yet to be empirically proven. Mar's research interests were fuelled by his own love of reading as a child. "As an undergrad I became very interested in this feeling of being absorbed and really wrapped up in litera- ture," he says. "Stories contain social information and they require us to use social-cognitive processes in order to compre- hend the characters within them." Mar notes that his previous studies have found a positive relationship between exposure to fiction and interpersonal sensitivity. However, he says, it was unclear whether exposure to different genres of fiction might be differentially related to these outcomes for readers. A recent study by his graduate student Katrina Fong investi- gated how exposure to four fiction genres – domestic fiction, T Raymond Mar: Why reading is good for you

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