How To Become Someone Else, in 1 Easy Step: read a book!
Posted by Angela
I just read this article about immersion while reading books, and it made some interesting points. I highly suggest reading the article, but to sum it up, the study shows that when a person reads a fictional story about a character in first person that is similar to themselves, they can almost lose their self-identity and take on characteristics of the character they’re reading about. It also helps to remove stereotypes and stigma about characters with controversial personality quirks or habits; for instance, a heterosexual male is less likely to attribute common gay stereotypes to a homosexual character if they fall into this “experience-taking”.
I thought, as a role-player and avid fantasy reader, that I’ve been doing this for years, so its nothing new. When I play a character in a LARP, a dark elf with black face paint for example, I am aiming at taking out my self-identity to fully become the character. I don’t even look the same once I’m in costume, which makes it much easier to pretend. It makes for better role-play, in fact, and I do find myself retaining some of the more common traits of that character after the game is over.
I undergo a similar experience when I read. I get so caught up in the story that I picture the whole thing like a movie playing in my mind. Fiance can walk into the room, hand me something, talk to me, move stuff around – and I won’t notice a damn thing until I’m done reading.
My emotions tend follow the ebb and flow of a good story, too. For example, when I read The Hunger Games, the narrative was so thoughtful and the dystopic society so real and scary, that by the end of the book, I had feelings of loss, desperation, and gloom (I love that word) for a few days. I was sad; when Fiance asked what was wrong, he thought I was lying when I said nothing. Nothing was wrong, I was just leftover sad from the book. (I may have to coin the phrase “leftover [emotion]” while reading now!)
I’ll admit, I giggled a little when I read the title and thought about all of this; If I’ve been doing this forever, what took science so long to catch up?
Do you find yourself becoming fully immersed in a good book? What about a movie or a TV show? If you role-play, do you have residual character traits for a few days? Or am I just totally insane?
(It’s ok if you think I am; I came to terms with that years ago.)
About AngelaI'm a holistic health advocate, an entrepreneur, and, of course, a writer. I blog about holistic wellness, alternative living, geek chic, introspection, spirituality, and the arts. In my downtime, when there is some, I sew and craft candles and natural bath products for extra cash, play with my adorable kitty Miss Daisy, and role-play characters that I could never be in real life.
Posted on August 14, 2012, in Geekdom and tagged articles, experience-taking, Ohio State Research and Innovation Communications, reading, role-playing, science. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.