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Responses to fiction

Robert Bethune bobbethune at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 16 12:53:15 EST 2001

I would like to identify publications bearing on what we know, or what
research is ongoing, on human response to fiction.

When I say "fiction," I don't mean just the experience of reading
fictional material. I'm also thinking of response to theater, TV,
film, video, storytelling, mime, dance, opera and so forth--all the
ways and means of storytelling in ordinary use.

What interests me is the fact that people can and do experience deep,
rich, sustained and authentic emotional response to fiction. In the
course of reading a story, watching a play, or viewing a film, people
often experience emotional responses comparable in intensity, though
different in nature, to those experienced in connection with real

I'm also interested in the fact that people who create
fictions--actors, writers, dancers, singers, filmmakers and so
on--also have these kinds of highly authentic emotional responses to
fictional materials. For example, in the course of rehearsal and
performance, actors can and often do enter and sustain very powerful
and authentic emotional states and states of interpersonal
relationship vastly different than their ordinary emotional states and
relationships and very much influenced by the purely fictional nature
of the story portrayed in the material being rehearsed or performed.

Recent items I've happened across, such as the article in the current
Scientific American on hypnosis, seem to show that recent research is
able to differentiate between neurological events occuring in response
to imagination, hallucination, and reality. There seem to be
fascinating phenomena going on relative to how the brain authenticates
experience, differential pathways by which experience--fictional or
real--reaches those areas of the brain which control emotional

If anyone can suggest psychology or neurology texts that would help me
learn more about this area, I'd very much appreciate it. I have a
pretty good background in psychology and neurology for a layman, but
I'm not a psychologist or neurologist. I am, in fact, a working
theater professional and teacher of acting.

I'll be checking back here on the newsgroup, and I'm also reachable at
rbethune at mediaone dot net.

Many thanks for your time.

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