Friday, August 31, 2012

Beyond the Written Page

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.

photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via photopin cc


  1. It is an interesting read :-) Thanks for the link...

  2. Thanks for passing along this interesting link, Dawn!

  3. I'll go take a look at that one. There was another study recently, unless it was the same one (which is why I need to go look at it), that showed that when we read we form emotional connections to the characters that are equivalent of real friendships, so those characters have the same kids of influences over us that our friends do. That tells me there is a big need for "responsible" writing.

  4. I'll have to look for that study, too, Andrew. It's fascinating to take a scientific look at the impact of reading--and I do think it speaks to a need for responsible stories, especially in children's literature.

  5. After reading the one you linked, which I had actually read before, I know now that the one I was talking about is a separate one. I'll see if I can find the link again.

  6. I've just read a study in which kick-ass female characters like Katniss Everdeen apparently make male readers think more highly of women's abilities. (Unfortunately I read so much that I can't remember where I found that article. In fact, I may have even imagined it.) But it fits in with the idea that fiction can have a formidable influence in changing people's relationship with "the real world."

  7. Hooray for Katniss! I hope that wasn't an article you imagined, Mike :)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!