“Your Brain on Fiction”


While browsing Facebook, someone shared this article from the New York Times about how people’s brains react when they read fiction. It further confirms that reading is excellent for your brain, but this article goes on to state that reading is can be very much like physically living another life. It says that when people read descriptive words it activates senses of touches or smells. Another test stated that people who read fiction are often better at navigation a myriad of social encounters due to seeing so many of them in fiction.

Three quotes in particular stuck out to me in this article confirming the above text, but I highly recommend that you give the whole article a read.

The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.”

“Words like ‘lavender,’ ‘cinnamon’ and ‘soap,’ for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.”

“Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, ‘is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.'”

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One thought on ““Your Brain on Fiction”

  1. Wow… that’s really interesting but makes a lot of sense (umm… so sorry for the pun… it was unintended and then wholeheartedly embraced). So many elitist friends in college always looked down on the proportion of bookshelves in my house that were taken up by fiction… But I love it. And words like “lavender” and “cinnamon” are instantly delicious.

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