Having your nose in a book might seem a little anti-social at times - but reading could actually make you a kinder, more empathetic person, a study has found.

Readers were more likely to act in a socially acceptable manner while those who preferred watching television came across as less friendly and less understanding of others' views, British researchers said.

The 123 participants in the study were quizzed on their preferences for books, TV and plays at Kingston University, London, the Daily Mail reports.

They were then tested on interpersonal skills, such as how much they considered people's feelings and whether they acted to help others.

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Researchers told the British Psychological Society conference in Brighton that fiction fans showed more positive social behaviour.

Readers of drama and romance novels were also empathic, while lovers of experimental books showed the ability to see things from different perspectives.

Comedy fans scored the highest for relating to others.

The study suggested reading allows people to see different points of view, enabling them to understand others better.

The researchers added: "Exposure to fiction relates to a range of empathic abilities.

"Engaging with fictional prose and comedy in particular could be key to enhancing people's empathic abilities."

However, the authors warned the study did not prove cause-and-effect.

So it could be that reading causes positive behaviour, or it could be that thoughtful, well-mannered people are more likely to prefer reading.