This is your brain on fiction.

It’s kind of annoying when a scientific study comes along and tells us something we already know, but Annie Murphy Paul’s piece in The New York Times is pretty interesting. I think it’s safe to say that reading novels can take one outside of one’s normal range of experience. We all know this. But her piece explains how scientific studies reveal the brain really can’t distinguish between the actual experience and reading about the experience. The prose fires up the same parts of our brains.

Consequently, the reading experience gives us a greater understanding of the human condition. Paul writes, “…individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.” Did we really need a scientific study to tell us this? Still, I guess it’s nice to have some concrete data to back up what we’ve known all along. Now somebody needs to show this piece to all those in favor of cutting funding to the humanities. Fiction does make a difference.


~ by Valerie Palmer on April 11, 2012.

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