Discuss: Your Brain on Fiction

In an effort to justify the benefits of reading fiction to the average non-reader, I came across a video short explaining the effects of fiction on the brain. The video titled “How Fiction Makes Our Brains Better” is produced by DNews and gives viewers a unique perspective on the process of reading. Watch the video to see what I mean.

The idea presented–grounded cognition–relates to how people “live” the stories they read because their brain activates certain areas that relate to the subject written about or the activities described. The video promotes reading fiction to viewers in a way that comes across fresh and non-intrusive. Forever am I trying to get my students to see the benefits of reading and analyzing fiction, but my methods are not always effective. I come across like a desperate warrior on the front lines of the battle between fiction and hard fact; non-readers don’t respond to that.

Yet the video from DNews promotes reading fiction as an extension of hard study of facts and complex processes to improve our brains. So is that the only reason our newer generations will use to justify the reading of fiction? Is there still room in our lives to feed our souls the creative juices that literature can provide? While I’m happy to come across resources like DNews, which is an excellent tool for the writing instructor, I’m inclined to believe that the “justification” also demonstrates the lessening value of reading fiction for the reasons previously understood. What about reading fiction for the sake of appreciating literature?

These thoughts–all boiling down to my own reasons for reading fiction, prompt me to consider something else. If reading fiction does improve our brain power and varying kinds of cognition, what does writing fiction bring us? Discuss.

1 thought on “Discuss: Your Brain on Fiction”

  1. Awesome video- and love that actual fMRI studies being cited. I think the idea of increased empathy is a huge one. I’ve been thinking a lot about this in terms of poetry- poetry that captures intense individual experience, and how sharing this experience with others through writing, can engage others in feeling more like part of a group, this larger sense of community and humanity. I also find it interesting about the structure and depth of literary fiction being more rewarding in terms of cognitive performance- this really shows that there is an equation, our brains are looking for underlying “equations” as we are reading and as characters are developing. So, then I think about rules. I think about the need to have a set of rules imbedded within writing. You can as a writer break rules, and you should, BUT they maybe can’t be fundamental ones, and if there are, there better be a good reason. Drifting a bit. But looking at brains while experience different kinds of literature is really pretty cool- it would be neat to run long term kinds of brain studies on readers and writers.


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