Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is so good for you

Do you love to read?  Are people always complaining you read too much?  Well, scientific studies have shown just how much reading can benefit everyone, so all I can say is “keep on reading!”.  It doesn’t matter which genre you enjoy, all it matters is that you identify with the characters and can get lost in the story line.

Stories about other people teach us to be the types of people we want to be.

“Reading makes us think and feel in new and different ways,” according to Keith Oatley, PhD, professor emeritus in the department of applied psychology and human development at the University of Toronto.  He explains, “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.”  In 2009, Oatley and his colleagues found that reading fiction causes a higher level of emotion than reading the same story in a non-fiction format.

Reading fiction helps readers develop greater understanding of others and ourselves, which is vital for social interaction.

Reading help provide that sense of belonging that all humans need.

“Stories allow us to feel connected with others and part of something bigger than ourselves,” says Melanie Green, PhD, is an associate professor in the department of communications at the University of Buffalo.  Reading can give us a sense of belongingness that we all instinctively want as human beings.

140 University of Buffalo undergraduates were asked to read 30 minutes of either “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer or “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling.  Participants then completed a series of questionnaires that tested their conscious and unconscious responses to the narratives.  The students who read Harry Potter identified with the wizards and their world and those that read Twilight identified with the vampires and their world.  Not only did the subjects of the study connect with the characters or groups they read about, they also adopted the behaviors, attitudes and traits that they could realistically approximate – so unfortunately no broom flying or sparkling in sunlight was observed.

“Social connection is a strong, human need,” the study’s author Shira Gabriel, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, said in a press release shortly after the research was published.  “Anytime we feel connected to others, we feel good in general and feel good about our lives.”  The sense of belonging that results from reading fiction provokes the same feelings of satisfaction and happiness we would have if we actually were part of the world described.

Reading bolsters all sorts of social skills.

By reading fiction, “we get to enter the minds of these other people.  And in doing that we understand other people better,” says Oatley.  His research showed that people who read more fiction scored higher in empathy test and social ability tests.  This finding has been replicated by a number of studies.  Data from these studies suggest that the same area of the brain that actually gets fired up when people read and comprehend fictional stories, as gets activated when we’re in the process of understanding other people.

Reading is good for our brains and may even help us live longer.

Reading has been shown by neuroscience research to be good for other cognitive skills by stimulating the neural networks in the brain that improve our social cognition and conceptual processing of abstract content.  Evidence suggests that this may have measurable benefits in term of overall health.

Getting lost in books reduced stress and boredom.

“One of the benefits of reading fiction is simply that it provides enjoyment and pleasure,” says Melanie Green, PhD, associate professor in the department of communication at the University of Buffalo.  “It can provide an escape from boredom or stress.”

Studies have shown that even reading for 6 minutes a day can significantly reduce your stress levels.


Read more at:

NBC Better website. “Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is good for you, according to science.”

Association for Psychological Science. “Reading fiction ‘improves empathy’, study finds.

University of Buffalo news. “We actually “become ” happy vampires or contented wizards when reading a book.

The Guardian.  “Reading fiction ‘improves empathy’ study finds.

Bookstr. “Research finds that ‘getting lost in a book’ is good for you”

The Telegraph.  “Reading ‘can help reduce stress'”

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