Some people just have to take it to the next level — or shall I say chapter.
Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered that people who really lose themselves inside a fictional world might actually change the way they think and act in real life. The phenomenon is called 'experience-taking,' and it's an unconscious process.
How does it work?
The study showed that some people "found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own" when they read fictional stories. This is different from seeing things from the character's perspective — you completely forget about yourself when you read, and you "become" the character. If you're a huge bookworm like me, you might understand what they're talking about.
In the study, they found that students who read a fictional story about another student trying to vote, but having several obstacles along the way, were more likely to vote themselves. They were given different versions of the story, one was about a student at their own university, while the other was about a student at a different university. The group that read the first version were more likely to vote, as they could relate more to the character.
It's kind of similar to what happens in the Icelandic movie Astrópía, where a woman submerges herself completely in RPG and it affects her decision-making in real life:
It can even turn you into a better person
The researchers also performed experiments where students read a story where the main character was a different race or had a different sexual orientation than their own. The readers afterwards showed a more favorable attitude towards these groups of people. I don't know about you guys, but I think this would be a great time to make sure all the required reading in schools feature a diverse range of characters.
What if I don't want to change who I am just because I'm enjoying a book?
If you're scared that this might change who you are as a person, don't worry, the researchers have a solution for you. In order to enjoy 'experience-taking,' you really have to forget about yourself for a while. The study showed that students who read in front of a mirror were less able to do this, as they were constantly reminded of who they really are. So if you're a bit paranoid about reading now, just get a mirror out the next time you want to enjoy your favorite book.
Source: The Ohio State University