We no longer have to just take iconic writers’ words on the power of fiction. The New York Times’ Annie Murphy Paul explores the neuroscience of your brain on fiction and how narratives offer a way to engage the brain’s capacity to map other people’s intentions, known in psychology as “theory of mind.”
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.
Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive.