Reading a fictional story can temporarily alter personality and actions. Whether it be the genre and theme of the story, or what the characters say, fictional works can alter a reader’s perception. There are many studies on the experiences of others affecting someone else’s behavior. In the past few years, there have been some studies on the experiences and personality of a fictional character in a story affecting the reader’s actions. When a character experiences a loss of a family member, for example, the reader might subconsciously react by having a drop mood for a day. These reactions are known as “experience-taking,” or the idea that the “imaginative process can assume the identity of a character” (Kaufman). There are many ways narratives and stories can affect a person. Some examples of ways characters and stories may change the reader are by creating empathy, changing behavior, and creating physical reactions.
“Engaging with fiction is an empathetic act” (Oatley). To read a fictional novel, the reader must put aside their own concerns to take on the concerns of a fictional character in a fictional world. As the reading continues, the reader experiences the character’s emotions in place of their own, according to Keith Oatley. Similar reactions take place when someone learns or reads about history. They begin to imagine and feel the emotions of the historic figures, as if the figures feelings were their own (Oatley). In writing a novel, as well, there is an abundance of research going into making the reader feel a certain way throughout the novel.
Empathy increasing as a result of being “transported” into a story is the main focus of the study done by Dan Johnson in 2012. In the study, a varie...
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...n one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings changing behavior, and creating physical reactions” (Paul). The way people empathize with a character mimics the way they would empathize with someone in real life. Reading can teach people to empathize more and better understand others. Fictional characters can also affect the way a reader might behave. They can contribute to personality changes in the reader. Also, reading creates a physical change in the brain. Words or phrases can make certain parts of the brain react. In conclusion, there are many ways narratives and stories can affect a person. Some examples of ways characters and stories may change the reader are by creating empathy, changing behavior, and creating physical reactions.
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