Hayden's Ferry Review


Why Books Can Be So Vivid and Compelling

Science and literature meet in New Scientist's article, "Why real and imagined disgust have the same effect." In a recent study at the University of Groningen, medical scientist Mbemba Jabbi and his team discovered that the same regions of the brain that are activated when an individual either sees someone who is experiencing a feeling of disgust or delight or experiences it himself, are also activated when this feeling is imagined.

This explains why, when reading a work like Caitlin Newcomer's, "Only this Torn Room Forever Sleeps," featured in Issue 42, the reader is at once completely repulsed by her description of bloody, mangled bodies hanging like slabs of meat in a locked room, and also completely fascinated by it, compelled to keep reading. This also occurs with strong feelings like delight and fear. One important aspect of the study revealed that books and movies can activate this same physical and psychological response-- good news for the literary world in a society that is so surrounded by visual media.

You can now be assured that you will still be fascinated, horrified, and delighted if you choose to pick up a novel. Science bids you to read, so come on. You can't argue with science.

Read Dr. Jabbi's full study, A Common Anterior Insula Representation of Disgust Observation, Experience and Imagination Shows Divergent Functional Connectivity Pathways, and see his biography here.
Beth StaplesNews