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The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. "Reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” According to the article in The New York Times: "Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica... The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing,so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters. ... Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined."
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Ward Plunet's profile photoPatricia F Anderson's profile photoAlex Lapidus's profile photoDana Dale's profile photo
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So true! And you talk about fabricated memories? Reading can create them.
 
I also wonder if this phenomenon could explain religious expiences. The imagined event seems real. I'm not talking about any particular religion of course. Only false religions!
 
Reading is a special experience - and when one finds a novel that hits them right it can feel like you know some of the characters better than your best friends. Powerful.
 
Maybe why reading is so satisfying; you get to experience a different world for a while. I wonder how it compares to watching a movie?
 
I feel it is likely that many of the more complex video games do this as well. I can recall many moments I have spent in virtual worlds with the same level of detail and emotional attachment with which I recall real life events.
 
Oh well, another journalist attempting to draw deep philosophical insights from grossly measured pattern of metabolic activity. Probably if I manage to track down the actual article which is conveniently not cited ("A study published in 2006 by researchers in Spain"?! Real specific, that...) I will find that the authors are smart enough not to claim that metabolic activity in similar regions (it's not the neuron's activity being measured, but the oxygenation of the blood feeding any of millions of cells, you know) implies that similar things are happening in both cases. Instead this speculation has been left to the reporter.

The aim of the reporter appears to merely be to "affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel." Which is a noble aim, and one I support, but I'm grumpy about the science being used as a collection of props in that aim.
 
Still, it's a good reason not to read books about serial killers
 
+Dana Dale I would tend to agree - however so many housewives LOVE that true crime stuff. It always made me a little uncomfortable when I worked in a bookstore back in the day.
 
"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer." - Ernest Hemingway (Esquire December 1934)
 
+Don McArthur Yes. This is why David Brin is such a great writer. After I finished "Startide Rising" I felt like an uplifted dolphin.
 
Sounds similar to some of the studies on mental practice for musicians and athletes being about 70% as good as the real thing (over a limited time frame).
 
As much as I enjoy reading, the characters that first popped to mind when I read this post were Babylon 5's, particularly G'Kar, Delenn, and Sheridan.

Of course, Babylon 5 was a giant, 4- or 5-year-long novel, just in video form...
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