Why People Who Read Are Nicer Than People Who Watch TV (According To Science)

Put down the remote and start turning those pages.

how to be nice getty

In a time when people are so sensitive about what is said online, what if I told you that the majority of us know better than to be offensive, but just don’t care? Would it really shock you? Probably not, given how there’s a lot of carelessness these days.

But what is stopping us from being nice to one another? Did we all forget how to be nice due to our currently political climate, or is it something else?


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According to a Los Angeles Times article published in 2015, a study showed that 72 percent of American adults read books during that year. The previous year, this was true for 76 percent. This kind of shocked me, considering that cable is so fairly priced these days, and so many shows and movies are available to watch.

But is the decline in reading to blame? A Kingston University in London postgraduate research student, Rose Turner, did a study, taking a look at how reading versus watching television affects social behavior.



This study consisted of 123 adults of various ages who completed an online survey. They had to answer questions regarding their preferences for books, TV shows, and plays, while also being tested on their interpersonal skills pertaining to how aware they were of the feelings of those around them.

In a nutshell, this study found that people who read had greater awareness and empathy for other people’s feelings. On the contrary, people who watched television were less friendly and understanding of others.

If you’re like me, you will find this interesting, probably for the same reason that Turner did. She says, “This study demonstrates that the different ways that people engage with fiction can impact their emotional intelligence and empathetic behaviors.”


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But if you’re like me, you’re also wondering why the results are what they are.

“Reading is an individual experience that makes people think deeper,” said Turner. “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 empathetic skills as we try to understand what a character is going through.”

The lack of information we may have about a character in literature makes our imagination work overtime to get a full reading on whom they are and all of their characteristics. On the other hand, when seeing a character on TV or in a movie, you feel (even more so than a character in a book) as though you grow with them from the beginning of the show to the end because you can get a better read on them.


You can see their facial expression when they get surprising news. You can see how they enjoy their down time. You can see how they cope with a hardship. Therefore, the TV/movie character instantly is more relatable than the book character.

It makes a lot of sense why people who read are nicer, despite TV/movie characters being more relatable: It’s the ambiguity! The less definitive information we have about book characters versus their TV/movie counterparts means we’re more likely to be open-minded about them, all because our imagination is involved.


Open-mindedness usually means you’re more understanding of people, even if they differ from you. So maybe it's time to switch from the television remote and pop open your old friend: a book.

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