Recently, I came across the following article by Jeff Grabmeier that discusses the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:
The study focuses on the phenomenon of “experience-taking,” which happens when the reader of a fictional story experiences the thoughts, beliefs, and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were the reader’s own. Researchers found that when “you ‘lose yourself’ inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character. . . . They found that, in the right situations, experience-taking may lead to real changes, if only temporary, in the lives of readers.”
I think this study reinforces what most avid readers have known for a very long time: when a reader becomes so immersed in a character’s world, a true emotional bond is formed, one that can have a formidable impact in the real world.
Still, it’s a neat idea that someone set about to scientifically prove it—and, I suppose, yet another argument for why authentic, relatable characters are so very important to any manuscript.
I hope you’ll check out the article. It’s an interesting read.