I ran across an interesting article in the NY Times recently. The article is a few months old, but it had some interesting findings about how our brains react to fiction. You can find it here.
The article talks about how when we read fiction our brains are stimulated in ways similar to what we would experience if we were doing/experiencing what we are reading about: “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”
It goes on to say that fiction essentially works in the brain like a software simulation – allowing us to experience, experiment, and test in a safe environment.
Not only does it provide a simulated experience, but the researchers also found it helps people develop empathy and better understand others.
“…individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective. This relationship persisted even after the researchers accounted for the possibility that more empathetic individuals might prefer reading novels.”
Interestingly I had a neighbor, Audra Jensen, who works with children with Autism and uses a group reading of children’s books to teach these children about empathy and perspective taking. She has written a book about the technique called “I Get it! Building Social Thinking and Reading Comprehension Through Book Chats” Her technique is the application of what was described in this article well before this article came out.
So the bottom line is that reading fiction is good for you on many levels. It will make you more empathetic, allow you to try new experiences in a safe environment, and improve your social skills. Who doesn’t want that?
So what are you waiting for? Go start reading a book!