Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why Do We Read Stories: Creating Genuine Experience

Ever wondered why it is we enjoy reading stories so much? They’re just words on a paper, yet they seem to have such a profound effect on us. Reading a good book can leave you feeling different afterwards, almost more complete. Or at least you with a euphoric high. Why is that, though?

I’ve got a theory. I think reading gives us access to real experiences. You’ve all probably heard that saying that there’s no difference in your mind between an experience you vividly imagine and an experience that actually happens. What this means is what we read on paper, the characters we begin to root for and love, the struggles and the triumphs, are one hundred percent real to us. They’re real experiences. Not literally real, but our brain responds to them as real.

So when you go on a good adventure in a book, your brain has actually experienced that adventure, and your brain has actually made friends with the characters. Your brain releases the endorphins from whatever it is you read. You’ve actually grown and gained wisdom from the experience.

Now really, let’s be honest, your brain does know the difference. Obviously. And that’s what allows you to have fun while you’re reading, rather than going into fight or flight mode every time your character gets into a jam.

So read books. You’ll be happier and wiser and have more fun because of it. A good movie can do the same thing. But I heard once to get that kind of experience out of a movie, you have to read the movie. This means thinking about it, vividly imagining it afterwards. Otherwise, if you experience it passively, you don’t really experience it at all.

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