Reading Fiction – more benefits than you can imagine

Some time ago, acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul wrote Your Brain on Fiction, an article in the New York Times. In that article, she revealed some intriguing insights into the affects of reading fiction on the brain. It seems that “scientists have come to realize … that narratives activate many other parts of the brain” beyond the classic language processing regions.

Fiction can activate areas of the brain associated with smell, the sensory cortex, and the motor cortex which coordinates the body’s movements. Reading fiction also “produces a vivid simulation of reality” and provides “the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.” Indeed, there are indications that when reading fiction the brain “treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life encounters.”


Even more importantly, reading fiction helps the brain to “construct a map of other people’s intentions” and ultimately “hones our real-life social skills.” Those who read fiction “seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.” In essence, novels can help us “understand the complexities of social life.”

Food for thought when I construct the next novel. Now, I wonder what the research might show about historical fiction?


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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Meet M.K.Tod

The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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4 Responses

  1. When I taught a Politics and Literature course, we only used fiction because I felt that it allowed thought experiments. More recently, including my course on War and Peace, I recommend historical fiction centered on specific conflicts so students can get a better picture of the impact of conflicts.

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