I'm not sure I agree. Reading - looking at words on a page - is not the equilvalent of seeing a face or hearing a tone of voice. In other words, how can you tell from the writen text that someone is really angry or sad, except that the author tells you. Perhaps the researchers got the results they did because those that tend to read narrative fiction are empathetic to begin with, rather than (as they seem to claim) learning or strengthening that skill by reading.
- People who frequently read narrative fiction scored higher on tests of both empathy (the ability to understand and identify with another person's feelings) and social acumen (the ability to make quick judgments of people and situations).
- Frequent reading of non-fiction was associated with poorer empathy and social acumen.
I would also venture that the type of reading one does makes a difference. Reading purely genre fiction might lead one to read into things more than others - always seeing conspiracies, crimes or passion where it doesn't actually exist.
And what about those of us that read both?