Reading changes the brain: 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.
When researchers examined what happened to people who, while reading a fictional story, found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own, they discovered that–in the right situations, experience-taking may lead to real changes, if only temporary, in the lives of readers.
In one experiment, for example, the researchers found that people who strongly identified with a fictional character who overcame obstacles to vote were significantly more likely to vote in a real election several days later.
This effect doesn’t happen all the time–it only occurs when people are able, in a sense, to forget about themselves and their own self-concept and self-identity while reading. Researcher Geoff Kaufman says, "The more you’re reminded of your own personal identity, the less likely you’ll be able to take on a character’s identity. You have to be able to take yourself out of the picture, and really lose yourself in the book in order to have this authentic experience of taking on a character’s identity."
Researcher Lisa Libby agrees and says, "(Reading) can be a powerful way to change our behavior and thoughts in meaningful and beneficial ways."
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