Is there a scientific case for literature? A neuroscientist novelist argues yes | Salon.com

Illogical as it might seem, there may be an evolutionary reason that humans love consuming fiction

By Erik Hoel, April 18, 2021 11:30PM (UTC)
A parent and child tell each other stories inside a cosy tent lit up in a dark room of their home (Getty Images)

You do something strange every day. You consume fictions. It’s such an omnipresent habit, shared by all, that we rarely consider the oddity of it.

I’m a fiction writer myself, but I’m also a neuroscientist, so this activity fascinates me. What’s the cognitive utility of learning things that aren’t true? We’re evolved biological beings who need to understand the world to survive, and yet all facts we learn about Hogwarts are literally false. How can any of this information be useful?

Still, fictions surround us. I grew up in my mother’s independent bookstore and I’ve been a writer since I can remember. A significant change in my lifetime is that media, like TV channels, books, magazines, and films, have been condensed into a single one-stop shop: the screen. I call this the supersensorium. Screens are now supermarkets for entertaining experiences. Such easy access to fictions means we often binge watch, we stuff our faces.

The average American adult spends about half their day consuming screen media.

–from article

Source: Is there a scientific case for literature? A neuroscientist novelist argues yes | Salon.com