OPINION: The consumption of fiction can be psychologically and emotionally beneficial

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In the face of economic calamity during WWII and the Great Depression, there was an increase in fictional works and concepts in the U.S., such as the creation of superheroes, in order to raise society’s morale. Scenarios in books and movies allow one to escape momentarily from the stresses of life. Being exposed to fiction and its creative aspects can have positive psychological and emotional effects.

Indulging in fiction is beneficial because it induces happiness. A study by psychiatrist Lucy Tan from the Queensland Australian School of Medicine showed that the more time someone spent reading their favorite book or watching their favorite show, the happier they felt.  The more time people spend interacting with favorable content, the more they become emotionally invested, which thus triggers a Pavlovian response when they come across the specific work that peaks their interest.

Additionally, heroic and persevering demeanors in protagonists inspire others to act similarly and encourage them to be the best version of themself.

Furthermore, literature increases empathy and allows people to interact more effectively with their peers. According to a study from the Scientific American, literary fiction puts a majority of its focus on the psychology of its characters, which the reader then has to analyze in order to understand the story. This psychological awareness carries over to real life – understanding others and their actions is a part of cultivating relationships.

However, there are those who assert that indulging oneself in fiction may prevent them from making effective connections in the real world since they will be more closed off. It is true that in extreme situations, the consumption of fictional media may get out of hand. For instance, empirical evidence from the U.S. National Library of Medicine supports the idea that those who excessively play video games or read have lower social skills than those who engage in said activities less often. Although spending a large amount of time fully immersed in fiction may harm an individual’s relationships, it won’t inflict substantial damage if done in moderation.

That being said, interacting with fictional works in moderation has the ability to improve mental health and inspire the hearts of those who wish to go out of their comfort zone. Fiction is not only a source of entertainment, but it also builds empathy and brings joy to many.

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