"If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them," was the eye-poppingly sage life advice of director John Waters. The oft-quoted line hits the nail on the head: In our experience, people who read really do tend to be the best people.
Researchers from Kingston University questioned 123 participants about their preference for books, TV shows and plays, before gauging their interpersonal skills, such as how much they helped others and considered their feelings, MailOnline reported.
Fiction readers were the most empathetic and showed the most positive social behaviours, the research found. While those who spent the most time watching TV were found to be less friendly and less understanding of others' views.
The researchers, speaking at the British Psychological Society conference in Brighton, said "exposure to fiction relates to a range of empathetic abilities".
Particular genres were also more closely correlated to positive social behaviours than others, they added. "Engaging with fictional prose and comedy in particular could be key to enhancing people’s empathetic abilities," they said. Reading romantic novels was also correlated with increased empathy.
However, the study doesn't confirm whether reading books makes you a nicer person or whether nicer people are simply more likely to be drawn to reading.
Either way, the next time someone says you're being antisocial by burying your nose in the latest Haruki Murakami, just tell them you're working on your social skills.