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Reading YA Books May Increase Empathy and Integrity

New research suggests there might be a connection between reading YA books and increased empathy and integrity, according to Kelly Jensen from BookRiot… Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free right now!

A new study from University of Oklahoma researchers Jessica E. Black and Jennifer L. Barnes published in Psychology of Popular Media suggests that young people who read YA books may be more empathetic than peers who do not.

Black and Barnes developed a two-part research study to deepen the exploration of earlier research on reading and its impact on morality. The study sought to make connections between reading different types of books—YA fiction, adult fiction, and nonfiction—and the impact each may have on empathy, moral identity, and moral agency.

“Moral self is the salience of morality in people’s sense of identity (Blasi, 1980),” according to the research methodology, “and integrity refers to the preference for consistency between moral principles and actions (Blasi, 1983).” These two definitions have been standardized enough in research to have tools making them quantifiable for researchers. The third, moral agency, is defined as “the ability to do what one believes to be right and to avoid doing what one believes to be wrong (Bandura, 2006).”

Familiarity with authors involved the use of a survey deployed in previous research on reading, but because Black and Barnes wished to explore YA authors specifically, they developed a separate recognition test. A YA list expert helped compile the list of YA authors, all of whom needed to have published at least three young adult books or had one bestseller, and none of them published an adult title. There were a total of 108 YA authors, interspersed with 40 fake names.

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