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5 Awesome Things That Happen When You Read Fiction, According to Science

Mark Andrew

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With social media, Netflix, video games, and all forms of digital distractions around us today, we sometimes couldn’t help but wonder: Do people still take the time to read books?

Personally, when was the last time you picked up and finished a book? A few days or a few weeks ago, perhaps? Several years?

Well some experts are reminding us all that reading, particularly of fictional literature, actually brings numerous benefits. If you’re not reading anything at the present, this just might motivate you to drop by a nearby bookstore or library. Or at least dust off your old paperbacks!

In an NBC News feature, Melanie Green, PhD, associate professor in the department of communication at University at Buffalo, shared:

“One of the benefits to reading fiction is simply that it provides enjoyment and pleasure. It can provide an escape from boredom or stress.”

Here are 5 advantages you can get from reading fiction.

1. Reading helps you realize what kind of person you want to be.

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According to Keith Oatley, PhD, professor emeritus in the department of applied psychology and human development at University of Toronto:

“You give up some of your own habits and thoughts, and you take on your own idea of being a different person in circumstances that you might otherwise never had been in…

“It is very important in the social world to understand others, to understand ourselves, and not just get stuck.”

Meanwhile, a 2009 study by Oatley and his team likewise discovered that people who read fiction “changed in their personality traits more” and felt “higher level of emotions” compared with non-fiction readers.

2. Reading makes you feel happier.

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In fact, University at Buffalo researchers conducted an experiment involving 140 undergraduate students. The participants read either “Twilight” or “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for 30 minutes and they later reported that immersing themselves in the characters’ worlds made them feel happy and satisfied, similar to feelings we get during real-world social interactions.

As UB associate professor of psychology and study author Shira Gabriel pointed out:

“Social connection is a strong, human need. Anytime we feel connected to others, we feel good in general and feel good about our lives.”

3. Reading improves your social skills.

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As we encounter different scenarios and personalities in fictional settings, we increase our capability to understand others in your real-world interactions.

Besides, fiction can be considered “the mind’s flight simulator,” said Oatley.

No wonder, Oatley’s research tells us that avid fiction readers scored higher on empathy and social ability tests.

The expert further explained:

“We get to enter the minds of these other people. And in doing that we understand other people better.”

4. Reading stimulates your brain – and even makes you live longer.

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Of course, we all know how the habit of reading can grow our grammar but on top of that, neuroscience research likewise indicates that it stimulates our brain’s neural networks which is good for us. In fact, it may even help us live longer lives.

Avni Bavishi, an MD candidate from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, put it this way:

“Reading, by engaging the brain, may keep the brain active enough to prevent cognitive decline that is associated with a variety of diseases associated with earlier mortality.”

5. Reading provides you with a much-needed “escape.”

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We all face varying degrees of stress everyday and fiction, in a way, gives us temporary escape from all that.

Green taught:

“People who are absorbed in a story world aren’t ruminating on their own personal concerns.”

Indeed, researches confirm that books, along with music, movies, and other types of media, can be helpful in managing moods.

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