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The Oakmonitor

Reading: Informative or an Escape

Grace Alatalo
The books that got me back into reading, and that I owe endless hours of high emotions to

If you’re like most people – especially a student who has been forced to read their entire career – it seems like a chore. The endless hours spent on a topic you care nothing about. Honestly, it kills the fire that sparked as a kid. The moment when you first discovered a book.

But there’re people out there who have the total opposite opinion. To them, having the ability to read is the best thing that could ever happen to a person. It’s an escape.

You may have heard a certain statement floating around, that the brain can’t tell the difference between real people and fictional characters. Well, it’s partly true. A study was conducted by Ohio State University centered around that very topic, and the results are shocking. 

A group of people, all fans of Game of Thrones, were brought in. Researchers at the university took each person in separately, and had them think about their real life friends as well as characters in the show. At the same time, their brains were being scanned.

Beforehand, the participants were asked to take a loneliness test, along with stating their favorite character. People who scored high on the loneliness test ended up having trouble recognizing certain boundaries between the real and fictional world. While the least lonely person easily saw the difference between the two.

This clearly shows how our brains can have trouble understanding relationships with fictional characters, especially in people that may not have those types of bonds in their everyday lives. Although the study did find that no matter the person’s standings on the loneliness meter, they all felt a deep connection to their favorite character.

“For some people, fiction is a chance to take on new identities, to see worlds through others’ eyes and return from those experiences changed,” Wagner (Dylan Wanger, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State) said. “What previous studies have found is that when people experience stories as if they were one of the characters, a connection is made with that character, and the character becomes intwined with the self. In our study, we see evidence of that in their brains.”


Grace’s Perspective

How does this even happen? We’re obviously real people, and fictional characters… aren’t. Going back to those people, the ones who see reading as a lifeline, their brains work differently. The attachment they form to the characters in stories might be just from a lack of relationships, but I think it goes deeper than that. Something happens when you open a good book, something I can’t quite explain. You’re literally transported into another world. When the high ends, returning to reality is almost as hard as saying goodbye to an old friend. 

New research has shown that the more a person ‘gets into’ a book, or becomes a part of that world, the more likely they are to start thinking about themselves as the main character. I know that sounds cheesy, but this isn’t some Wattpad story. According to, “…the more immersed people tend to get into “becoming” a fictional character, the more they use the same part of the brain to think about the character as they do to think about themselves.” 

Basically, the more someone is reading and getting into their book, the more they begin to think of themselves as an actual part of the story. Which connects to why we feel such deep emotions when characters die. 

You might’ve experienced it yourself. The witty side character stumbling to the ground after the team wins a battle, a hand pressed to a hidden wound on their side, or even the main love interest suddenly being attacked and perishing from injuries, leaving their lover all alone. In those moments we really do tend to feel like a part of their world. You feel all the same emotions as the characters reacting to the death, sometimes even more so.

Once you find a book that works for you, the secret world it opens you up to makes you wonder why it took so long to find it. There’s nothing like feeling as though the characters are there for you, that they understand what you’re going through and want to help.

Reading is so special for so many people, and having the chance to experience it yourself is indescribable. You feel heard by the characters. You enter their world and never want to leave. You have a purpose.

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About the Contributor
Grace Alatalo, Reporter
Grace Alatalo is part of the Oakmont Class of 2027. This is her first year being a part of The Oakmonitor team. She was a member of the school’s girls’ JV soccer team in the fall, and is also a part of creative writing club. In her free time, she enjoys writing stories and reading, as well as spending time with her dog. “My mother always used to say: The older you get, the better you get, unless you’re a banana.” —Rose (Betty White), The Golden Girls

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  • A

    Alanna KeeseDec 5, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    The cruel prince>>>

    • G

      Grace AlataloDec 6, 2023 at 10:52 am