Reading fiction and reading minds in early adolescence: A longitudinal study


Reading fiction is argued to have benefits for our understanding of others' thoughts, feelings and desires, referred to as 'theory of mind'(ToM). We aimed to test this assumption by examining whether children's reading experience is longitudinally associated with later ToM. We examined reading experience and ToM in 236 children between the ages of 11-13 years. Participants were asked to report on their time spent reading both fiction and non-fiction at ages 11 and 13, ToM was measured at age 13. Verbal ability, reading comprehension, and reading motivation were included as control variables in all analyses. Results showed that children's self-reported fiction, but not their non-fiction reading was associated with ToM. Further, the association was concurrent but not longitudinal: fiction reading and ToM at age 13 were associated but fiction reading at age 11 did not predict ToM at age 13. Our findings motivate further research on what types of reading materials might be beneficial, and the level of exposure to fiction that is needed for measurable benefits for later ToM.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
College of Health & Life Sciences
College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Institute of Health & Neurodevelopment (AIHN)
College of Health & Life Sciences > Clinical and Systems Neuroscience
College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Optometry > Vision, Hearing and Language
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Uncontrolled Keywords: Child,Non-Fiction,Reading,Reading experience,Humans,Adolescence,Fiction,Emotions,Adolescent,Longitudinal Studies,Theory of Mind,Motivation,Theory of mind
Publication ISSN: 1096-0457
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 07:20
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2022 08:16
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://www.sci ... 1059?via%3Dihub (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-10
Published Online Date: 2022-06-13
Accepted Date: 2022-05-18
Submitted Date: 2021-12-21
Authors: van der Kleij, Sanne W (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-2749-3015)
Apperly, Ian
Shapiro, Laura R (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-3276-457X)
Ricketts, Jessie
Devine, Rory T

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