Posted Friday 4 August 2017
Can reading novels make you a nicer person? An audience of top international psychology experts will hear a Kingston University postgraduate research student present her findings around how regularly choosing a book over television can positively affect social behaviour at a prestigious conference in Washington DC this weekend.
Rose Turner has been invited to present her thesis at the 125th annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) – the largest scientific and professional organisation representing psychology in the United States.
The 32 year old's study, carried out with 123 adults of various ages, found that bookworms have the edge over their boxset-loving counterparts when it comes to being kinder.
Following an initial presentation to The British Psychological Society in May, Rose's research – under the supervision of Dr Fatima Felisberti – went on to make headlines around the globe. The postgraduate student from Exmouth, Devon, is now keen to make the most of the opportunity to discuss her work with some of the top experts in her field across the Atlantic.
"I'm really looking forward to presenting my research at the convention and meeting other researchers and practitioners interested in the relationship between psychology and the arts," she said. "I'm excited about finding out about the great work going on in the United States and beyond and I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot from the people that I meet over there."
When quizzed over why readers are more likely to develop better social skills than those who consume other forms of fictional media such as television or films, Rose explained that reading is an individual experience that makes people think deeper about characters. "When we read we go by what is simply written on the page and we have to fill in the gaps as we go along, giving us a chance to develop empathic skills as we try to understand what a character is going through. Whereas when we watch something, we are provided with a lot of that information already", she said.
Before undertaking her PhD in psychology within Kingston University's School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Rose completed an undergraduate degree in theatre studies and a Masters in performance practice as research. She puts those theatrical skills into practice in the field of occupational psychology, running group exercises in social care settings, schools and prisons that involve people using role-play techniques to develop their skills.
"I have seen first-hand how stories and the notion of becoming another character can have a positive impact on a person's wellbeing," she explained. "It's not just a source of escapism but also a chance to imagine how somebody else sees the world," she added.
Rose's research is currently under peer review ahead of publication, and she hopes her presentation at the American Psychological Association will help further promote the benefits of reading fiction to the wider public.