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The mental benefits of reading fiction

Despite fiction being around for quite a long time, there are still people who don’t understand why there is a need for it. Different studies have been conducted proving how fiction affects humans psychologically and cognitively.

  1. Fiction helps improve social skills


Reading fiction develops one’s ability to read people. According to a study from the New School for Social Research in New York, test subjects who were given a passage from a work of fiction demonstrated the ability to interpret people’s thoughts through speech and body language. Fiction reading allows people not only to practice interpreting people’s thoughts but also to get in touch with the emotions of other people, which is important in building healthy relationships.

  1. Fiction encourages learning


Fiction reading improves literacy. Author Neil Gaiman promotes fiction reading as it encourages people, most especially children, to learn. Fiction gives readers a drive to know what happens next and to keep turning the page. Fiction also forces people to learn new vocabulary and to think new thoughts.

  1. Fiction distracts and relaxes the mind


An American survey found that fiction readers enjoy the out-of-body sensation that reading provides. Respondents of the survey answered that they prefer imagining the stories rather than seeing them on television. Unlike with television, reading compresses time by allowing the reader to decide how fast or how slow they consume the story. They don’t have to keep up with visual cues and miss important story details as they visualize the stories themselves. Fiction also allows readers to unplug from the stream of visual information that they are constantly exposed to.

  1. Fiction builds compassion and empathy


Fiction improves one’s theory of mind. The theory of mind (ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and others, allowing one to understand difference in beliefs, motives, desires, etc. Those who enjoy fiction also claim to have an out-of-body experience, in terms of allowing them to see the world through the eyes of others. Fiction reading allows readers to put themselves in the shoes of the people, therefore building empathy.

  1. Fiction stimulates brain connectivity


Neurologists from Emory University in Atlanta found that reading fiction causes a change in the left temporal context, which is associated with language reception. It was also found that it affects the primary sensorimotor region of the brain, which tricks the mind into thinking that it is doing a physical activity when it fact it isn’t. These findings are associated with surveyed readers who enjoy reading because of the out-of-body experience it provides.

  1. Fiction encourages imagination, innovation, and invention


Television presents already-created and already-tangible ideas. Novels allow readers to build their own worlds in their minds and allows their imagination to take flight. This allows people to come up with better ideas and better ways to make those ideas happen in reality. Fiction reading builds a good kind of discontent, one which allows people to modify and improve the world that they currently live in.




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