".... people who read excerpts from literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Alice Munro, Wendell Berry) scored better than people who read popular fiction (Gillian Flynn, Rosamunde Pilcher, Mary Roberts Rinehart) on tests asking them to infer what people were 'thinking or feeling--a field that scientists call Theory of Mind.' "
The study did not find the same effects with nonfiction or commercial fiction. One explanation from the scientists: "Literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity. They theorize that reading literary fiction helps improve real-life skills like empathy and understanding the beliefs and intentions of others." OK, but the nonfiction readings came from articles published in Smithsonian magazine, like "How the Potato Changed the World." Maybe try some Annie Dillard or John McPhee next time.