Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

5.01.2012

More Evidence Supporting the Importance of Storypushing

"The best morals kids get from any book is just the capacity to empathize with other people, to care about the characters and their feelings.  So you don't have to write a preachy book to do that.  You just make it a fun book with characters they care about, and they will become better people as a result."


--Louis Sachar, in his acceptance speech for winning the Newbery Medal for Holes

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From Why Fiction Is Good for You

This research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.

But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society — and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place. . . .  

Fiction’s obsession with filth and vice has led critics of different stripes to condemn plays, novels, comic books, and TV for corroding values and corrupting youth. . . .  

But fiction is doing something that all political factions should be able to get behind. Beyond the local battles of the culture wars, virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics. . . .  

They found that heavy fiction readers outperformed heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy, even after they controlled for the possibility that people who already had high empathy might naturally gravitate to fiction. As Oatley puts it, fiction serves the function of “making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding.” . . .  

Reading narrative fiction allows one to learn about our social world and as a result fosters empathic growth and prosocial behavior. . . .  

Anthropologists have long argued that stories have group-level benefits. Traditional tales, from hero epics to sacred myths, perform the essential work of defining group identity and reinforcing cultural values. . . .  

The results showed that antagonists and protagonists had sharply differentiated personalities. Antagonists were overwhelmingly driven by motives of power, wealth, and prestige. They didn’t care about winning mates, making friends, or even helping their own kin. They were loveless, emotionally isolated egomaniacs. The protagonists, meanwhile, were keen on romance and eager to help their friends and relatives. . . .  

By simulating a world where antisocial behavior is strongly condemned and punished, these novels were promoting ancient human values. And from these books, and from fiction more broadly, readers learn by association that if they are more like the protagonists, they’ll be more likely to live happily ever after. . . .

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