Book Talk: The Psychology of Losing Yourself

We’ve all been there.

One of the main reasons you may enjoy reading is because you have a chance of losing yourself in the fictional world for a given period of time. Suddenly, you’re a child who discovers you’re actually a wizard who has been sent into the human world to be protected from evil. Or you’re a teenage girl in a faraway future where you fighting and dying is a sport and the winner gets to live with fortune for their district.

And after you flip the last page, close the book, and put it on the table next to you, you can’t help but feel like with one flick of your wrist, you can cast a spell. Perhaps, you even find yourself following the characteristics of your favourite character. You might be a little more sarcastic. You might want to dye your hair red, wear dresses, and high heels. You might even change your thoughts, finding one physical attribute to be more attractive than the rest.

I’ll give you an example. Personally, after reading a lot of romance novels with the same consistent types of characters in each and every one, I find myself thinking a certain way. I might want to dye my hair bright cherry red because the heroine has that colour and everyone thinks its gorgeous. Or I might look more down upon myself because my bust isn’t as glorious as what was described in the racy novel. Whatever it is, I realize my thoughts change and alter with some books.

Well, why is that?

There is research done on this phenomenon. Completed by Ohio State University, readers who were exposed to fictional tales found themselves to feel emotions, thoughts, and internal beliefs of characters. They called it “experience-taking.”

Experience-taking doesn’t always happen all the time. It only happens when readers can  separate themselves from their lives and immerse themselves in the fictional characters, taking on what characters feel or think. Remember the last time you forgot about the time and it’s all of sudden 3 AM? You were probably doing a good job at experience-taking.

And as expected, Ohio State found that stories written in first person affected people more as opposed to second person. It also concluded that readers tend to have a higher experience-taking when you are able to relate more to characters themselves. For example, you may feel more when the main character is an Asian female if you are an Asian female.

Is experience-taking a bad thing?

Not necessarily. As long as what you’re taking away from the stories don’t make you commit heinous acts or acts that make you feel uncomfortable with yourself, you’re probably okay.  We all have different sets of morals, values, and ethics that tell us what is right and wrong.

It’s not always the acts themselves too. Going back to my earlier example about myself, I started to think red hair is more attractive than other shades because I’ve been exposed to so much from reading. But I’m somewhat okay with it because hair is easy to change. What I’m not okay with is is that I believe my bust has to be bigger because of what authors describe in books and the only way for me to feel attractive or like a woman is if I have big boobs.

However, I do a fairly good job at separating myself from fiction and real life.

What about you? Have you experience experience-taking before and did you even realize it?

Let me know in the comments!

Research Source: Here


2 thoughts on “Book Talk: The Psychology of Losing Yourself

  1. This is a super interesting topic–at least I think so because I’m a big ole book junkie. In terms of experience-taking, what I seem to take away from a story more than anything is deep emotion, especially sadness or a feeling of loss. This happens to me both with books and movies and can linger for a long time afterward, so I’ve learned to be careful about the kinds of books I read, making sure I’m in an emotional healthy place before diving into a book that I know will be an emotional read.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember coming across this idea before. I have to admit it tends to be the language I absorb more than anything and will find myself writing or speaking in a different way and using new words I’ve picked up. If there’s a lot of bad language in a book I’ll find myself swearing more or if it’s historical I may find I become more polite or formal.


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