Here’s the case in a nutshell: study participants, who recognized the names of literary writers such as Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie and Harper Lee, were found to be more empathetic than those who recognized the names of Cussler (action/adventure) and Steele (women’s fiction).
Right now you're probably thinking that someone like me, who happens to be co-writing with Clive Cussler, might be slightly prejudiced. You'd be right. Even so, I can almost understand the (misguided) belief that Cussler readers might be less empathetic, because look at what the guy writes: action/adventure-take-no-prisoners-gonna-save-the-day type stuff. If you ignore that his heroes always go above and beyond the call of duty to save the little guy, sometimes even the whole world, never once uttering a swear word, then sure. After all, there's usually a pretty high body count in his books. But just because someone likes action/adventure, how does that make them less able to recognize emotion in other people?
I'm inclined to believe that they interviewed the wrong thousand people.
If one of these academic researchers were to show me a picture of a man bringing a woman a bouquet of roses on Valentine's Day, my non-empathetic bells would be clanging as I calculated the cost, thinking the entire gesture a waste of money. My husband doesn't buy me flowers for Valentine’s Day. It's not that I don't like them. More that they're gonna die in a few days and for the same price, he could buy me the next Cussler novel. In hardcover.
If that makes me and/or my husband (who also reads/recognizes genre authors) less empathetic, bring it on.
How about you, readers? What genre do you read in and what do you think of this study?