Fostering Empathy, Logical Thinking, and Creativity by Literary Texts: A Neuroscientific Approach


This paper aims to show that reading a literary text is an effective means to foster empathy, logical thinking, and creativity, all of which are indispensable for students as future citizens of the world who should understand other cultural values and cope with the multifaceted current of globalization appropriately and flexibly. Drawing on the studies of neuroscience concerning these three abilities, the paper elucidates the correlation between their enhancement and reading a literary text. Neuroscience demonstrates that the brain region of 'theory of mind' concerned with the human ability to empathize with others' emotions becomes active when a reader of a literary text becomes immersed in characters' inner worlds; that while the left brain, specialized for logical thinking, excels in dealing analytically with language's denotative, clearly signifying functions, the right brain, specialized for freely associative thinking and hence thought to produce the moment of creativity, excels in dealing with language's connotative, suggestive functions. Given these findings, teaching literature in the classroom proves a productive educational method: by enjoying a literary text in three different ways, that is, by becoming steeped in characters' mental states, by examining minutely the primary meanings of words, and by reading between the lines inferentially, students can activate their brain regions of 'theory of mind' and both of their brain hemispheres, thereby improving their abilities to understand others' feelings, to think logically, and to arrive at a creative solution.

Author Information
Chiyo Yoshii, Osaka University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2017
Stream: Mind, Brain & Psychology: Human Emotional & Cognitive Development & Outcomes within Educational Contexts

This paper is part of the ACE2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon