Fictitious reading

“Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.” But does reading fiction also account to the exercise one’s mind requires to remain healthy?

The question is “Why do some people read fiction? In what way is it good for us?” Psychiatrist, Dr Ponni Muralidharan says that reading fiction actually relaxes one’s mind. Transporting the reader to a completely different world it provides a kind of escape from the real world for some time. When asked if it has any harmful affects psychologically, she says there isn’t anything bad in it, in fact it helps the reader in many ways.

Amita Bobby, student of psychology says that reading fiction works as a great stress buster for her and feels that it may be good for social skills; in fact many people take reading fiction as a source of instruction.

Shreya Jain, also a student of psychology, gives her personal point of view “I feel great living the lives of the characters I read about, it’s something I may not be able to do in the real world. Reading a book enables me to be an astronaut who is also a pop singer and what not. I can be anyone, a vampire, a wizard or even my own self when I relate to characters like me.”

Burying your head in a novel isn’t just a way to escape the world: A scientific back up to support fiction reading is a research done in neurosciences, regarding the ability of the brain to keep regenerating cells and also how learning helps in this process. American neuroscientist Dr Brian Walsh says that curiosity is the key to quality learning. To grow the human brain needs to be challenged. He says, “Mental stimulations make brain cells generate new extensions resulting in richer information processing. Reading fiction, especially ranging across authors, pushes our boundaries as we experience fresh scenes and identify with the characters”. Hence we are able to imagine our characters, create scenes, sense smell and sounds and are aroused emotionally. Reading does this in so much more a better way than does watching a movie wherein we do not have to use our own imagination.

Psychologists today are finding that reading can affect our personalities. The reason fiction but not non-fiction has the effect of improving empathy is because fiction is primarily about us interacting with other people in the social world. The subject matter of fiction is mostly about making social decisions, understanding someone’s view point, why he/she did this, or if that’s the case what should he/she do now, and so on. It’s this kind of thinking that predominates in most fiction books.

In fiction, we are able to understand characters’ actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds (putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes), rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have. There is a big difference between these two points of view. We usually take the exterior view of others, but that’s too limited. Hence empathy is improved. Reading fiction improves understanding of others, and this has a very basic importance in society, not just in the general way making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding, but in specific areas such as politics, business, and education.

Children and fiction is another important aspect of the research regarding reading fiction. The ‘potter mania’ and the ‘Meyer Phenomenon’ tells us that reading hasn’t still completely diminished in the present generation, despite the age of television and Internet children enjoy reading as well. Kids who love to read often do well academically because good reading and comprehension skills help them to find understanding of any topics that they may wish to study, so smart parents do all that they can to create an environment that encourages reading. Reading can soothe like no other. Given that kids are usually bubbling with energy, reading forces them to sit and be still. This daily act of making them be quiet and sit still is a cure for children’s (and some adult’s) “fidgety factor”.

Finally it ends up as one’s personal choice when we talk about what to read. To kill time while travelling or just sitting and doing nothing, it wouldn’t actually be a bad idea to pick up a good book and read on just forgetting everything else. But if possible make sure for the fact that you pick up something you wouldn’t want to put down. Happy reading!

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About Anna Paul

Anna Paul is a student of Industrial Psychology, pursuing an MSc at Sampurna Montfort College. She has completed her BA in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from Mount Carmel College , Bangalore. Writing is her passion and she enjoys poetry, travelling, reading, baking, music, dancing and spending time with her loved ones.