Another Take On Fiction For The Brain

Over at Book View Cafe, Nancy Jane Moore has an interesting post on Annie Murphy Paul’s article and other related research by Keith Oatley and Raymond Mar.

As a book designer, I would be curious to see a study that looks at good writing with a good page design vs. good writing with a poor design, and bad writing with a good design vs. bad writing with a poor design. Yes, good writing is subjective. I would have to be in charge of making that distinction.


Reading Fiction Is Good For The Brain (and what’s good for the brain is good for the rest of your body)

MRI of the head, from

It turns out that reading fiction is actually good for you. Not that I didn’t already believe that, but I’ve met plenty of people who don’t read fiction, because they say they only want to read real things. This piece by Annie Murphy Paul in the New York Times discusses some recent research into the imagery of fiction and its effect on the brain.

Paul quotes Dr. Keith Oatley, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto and a novelist (including The Case of Emily V, a mystery that involves Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes). According to Oatley, fiction “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

Paul mentions Oatley and other authors of various studies. When I looked up Oatley I discovered that he has a book from August 2011 on the same subject: Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction, which is described as exploring “how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers.”

I find it odd that Paul’s piece failed to mention Oatley’s book. I don’t know what that omission means (most likely nothing), but it bugs me. It distracted me from the making of a simple blog post on an interesting subject, sending me off into myriad speculations, none of which are worth noting in this post.

Here’s a group blog that Oatley participates in: OnFiction: An Online Magazine on the Psychology of Fiction, which I will look at more thoroughly when I get a chance, and I’m curious to read his book.

I hope the findings of Oatley and other researchers will encourage more people to attempt the reading of fiction. It will help your brain.


Today I wrote some of the beginning of part two of the novel I’ve been working on (called New Springdale Novel or maybe Recollections of a Malleable Future). Part one is first person, part two is third person. Same character, but things are different. I needed to set up that difference, or begin to set it up. Without being too obvious, heavy-handed, etc. What I did today is probably mostly place-holder, but it’s a start.