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Read a Book, Stay Connected

Beyond escape and education, reading fulfills psychological need, researcher says

WEDNESDAY, April 27, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Reading a book can satisfy the crucial human need for belonging, a new study has found.

The research involved 140 university students who were given 30 minutes to read a selected passage from either the vampire novel Twilight or the wizard novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The passages focused on the lives of either vampires or wizards.

The participants were then assessed for their psychological connection with either vampires or wizards, called "assimilation effects." Those who read Harry Potter "became" wizards and those who read Twilight "became" vampires. The largest effect was seen in participants who were more group-oriented in their lives.

The study also found that "belonging" to the fictional communities in the books gave the same mood and life satisfaction people get from association with real-life groups, according to the researchers, University at Buffalo SUNY psychologist Shira Gabriel and graduate student Ariana Young.

"The study explains how this everyday phenomenon -- reading -- works not just for escape or education, but as something that fulfills a deep psychological need," Young said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science.

The findings are scheduled to appear in the association's journal, Psychological Science.

More information

The University of California, Berkeley, has more on social psychology.

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, April 22, 2011
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