READING books could make you a nicer person, a study found.
People who read fiction novels are more likely be friendly, well-behaved and have sympathy for others.
But those who prefer watching telly are less sociable, less friendly and less understanding of others’ views.
In a study, carried out by researchers at Kingston University, 123 people were questioned on their preferences for books, TV and plays.
They were also asked what types of entertainment they preferred, including drama, comedy, romance, experimental and factual.
Finally, the volunteers were tested on their interpersonal skills and prosocial behaviour – things like how much they considered people’s feelings, whether they could see things from different points of view and whether they acted to help others.
Researchers found people who preferred reading novels were more likely to show positive social behaviour and be able to empathise with others.
But those who preferred watching TV did not have the same ability to empathise and were more likely to show antisocial behaviour.
Readers of drama and romance novels were best able to understand other people, while lovers of experimental books showed more positive social behaviour and ability to see things from different perspectives.
Comedy fans scored the highest for being able to relate to others.
Researchers suggested this could be because reading books allows people to see things from other people’s points of view, which makes them better able to understand others.
Study leader Rose Turner said: “The findings support previous evidence that exposure to fiction relates to a range of empathetic abilities.
“All forms of fiction are not equal. Associations between empathetic skills, media and genre diverge.
“Engaging with fictional prose and comedy in particular could be key to enhancing people’s empathetic abilities.”
The authors warned the study did not prove cause-and-effect. So it could be that reading causes good behaviour, or it could be that thoughtful, well-mannered people are more likely to prefer reading.
The study was presented as a poster at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton.
Another study found stories with dragons and fairies were less likely to make kids creative than realistic ones.