Does Art Make You Nicer?

A new study published today, conducted across five universities in the United States, has confirmed that medical students with greater exposure to the arts and humanities tend to have significantly better empathy, emotional intelligence, and wisdom—and they are less likely to develop symptoms of burnout.

Here’s a bold claim – a new (preliminary) study has suggested that medical students who spend more time around the arts or engaging with the humanities tend to display higher levels of empathy and emotional wisdom. 

Now, I’m not going to wade in on that particular finding (I’m sure there are equally sympathetic doctors out there who’ve never read Jane Austen), but it seems undeniable to me that engagement with the arts, humanities, and culture more widely is good for the soul.

It’s something I see daily in my work at Antenna, from the passionate curators I get to to interview, the enthusiastic writers I collaborate with, and even the visitor feedback that site staff pass on when people feel our guides have helped them connect to culture in a deeper way. 

In a time when funding for the arts and humanities is stretched, and some even question how worthy they are in relation to the more tangible sciences, I’m proud to be their champion. 

As someone once said to me during my research years: “Science can tell you how to bring back the dinosaurs. Humanities will show you why that’s probably a bad idea.”

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