Reading and Emotional Intelligence

October 22, 2019
Reading is great for increasing emotional intelligence. In today's article, we'll explore how.

A study by the American Psychiatric Association in 2017 indicated that reading Harry Potter boosts a person’s emotional intelligence. Specifically, because it opens your mind as it decreases any prejudices you might have towards minorities.

Another study that was published in the journal Science in 2013 concluded that reading science fiction promotes the development of the theory of mind.

Reading, in general, seems to encourage emotional development, which, in turn, is a good predictor of personal, social and work success.

Are there gender differences?

A woman reading by the door.

Regarding gender differences, studies show that there are no significant ones when it comes to global emotional intelligence.

However, we do find differences in analyzing the components that constitute emotional intelligence. The main differences are:

Women have

  • Increased awareness when it comes to their emotions.
  • A greater ability to perceive, understand, and express them.
  • Much more empathy.
  • A greater aptitude in their interpersonal relationships.
  • More opportunities for social interaction.

Men have

  • A higher stress tolerance.
  • Greater control over their impulses.
  • More personal security.
  • More independence.
  • A greater ability to be optimistic.

The development of emotional intelligence

There are two main points of view when it comes to the development of emotional intelligence.

  • The first one states that it progressively increases with age and experience.
  • The second one, which develops during childhood and tones down at the beginning of adulthood.

Be that as it may, coaching people at an early age can be very positive for the development of this type of intelligence. Studies conducted in school-aged children show that working through specific programs or through a transversal treatment has the following advantages:

What books should you choose to boost your emotional intelligence?

There are many options to choose from when it comes to choosing books or reading materials to boost your emotional intelligence. Let’s pretend we’re at a bookstore.

Walk towards the wide section of novels and choose one with a plot that hooks you immediately. By doing this, you’ll develop a certain link with one or more characters. Thus, by connecting with them you’ll develop empathy.

Then, put yourself in the shoes of the character you connected with. Try to understand their emotional state, what moves them, and understand their reason for acting a certain way. In short, take this character as a reference to learn from. This is an indirect but highly entertaining way to develop your emotional intelligence.

The second option is to go to the psychology or self-help section of the bookstore. Though it’s not as extensive as the novels section, you’ll for sure find many books dedicated to the development of your personal skills, abilities, attitudes, and, of course, emotional intelligence.

Thus, this type of book is set apart because it provides the reader with direct knowledge or patterns of action. The authors of these books often use characters as an example but these aren’t necessarily the protagonists of the book. Check out this article if you’re interested in learning more about books that promote emotional intelligence: “The 7 Best Books On Increasing Your EQ“.

Finally, if you’d like to integrate the advantages of both types of books, then there’s a third option you can choose. There are self-help books with many short stories. These are designed to teach you something through the actions and experiences of the characters featured in them. Through the attitudes and skills that the author proposes from the beginning.

Promoting emotional intelligence in children

A person reading by the window.

In order to work on reading and emotional intelligence, there are two fundamental strategies you can use:

  • The first is one uses techniques, methods or actions of direct-action as models and is done by parents. Check out the article “Children Need Emotional Intelligence” to find out more about this.
  • The second one, which is less direct but equally effective, mainly involves reading. Be it stories, fables, comics, novels, etc. All of these resources are great for parents to promote social and emotional skills in their children. In fact, reading books helps develop the theory of mind. This is a very important ability to have as it allows you to reflect and understand your mental state and those of others.
  • Del Castillo Guevara, J., & Martí Lahera, Y. (2007). Lectura, inteligencia emocional y sociedad: reflexiones desde el contexto informacional. Acimed16(4), 0-0.
  • Del Pilar Jiménez, E., Alarcón, R., & de Vicente-Yague, M. I. (2019). Intervención lectora: correlación entre la inteligencia emocional y la competencia lectora en el alumnado de bachillerato. Revista de Psicodidáctica24(1), 24-30.
  • García, P. Á. C., & Ibañez, V. G. L. (2010). La lectura como determinante del desarrollo de la competencia emocional: un estudio hecho con población universitaria. Revista de Investigación Educativa28(2), 345-359.
  • Ramírez, G. G. (2011). Los procesos de lectura y escritura en la inteligencia emocional. Poliantea7(13), 6.
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  • https://www.psicolibertad.com/2013/11/18/leer-novelas-de-ficci%C3%B3n-mejora-la-inteligencia-emocional/
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