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How Fiction Can Change Reality

04 Jun

How Fiction Can Change Reality

Posted By: 
Kaitlyn Guay

Ever read a book that inspired you to view the world in a different way? There’s probably more of them than you think.

Jessica Wise’s inspiring TED-Ed talk entitled “How Fiction Can Change Reality” may have you questioning which stories have influenced your life.

Wise tells us, “Researchers in psychology, neuroscience, child development and biology are finally starting to gain quantifiable, scientific evidence showing what writers and readers have always known: that stories have a unique ability to change a person’s point of view.” Take “The Hunger Games,” for example. This fan-favorite subtly invites its readers to reexamine the concept of capitalism, and the importance of one versus the importance of many.

According to Wise, “Scholars are discovering evidence that stories shape culture, and that much of what we believe about life comes not from fact, but from fiction.”

Societal constructs such as class, marriage, and gender are a few examples of what Wise says are largely influenced by the stories we tell. Sharing stories about strong women during a time when women were largely considered second-class citizens helped shift the narrow societal construct of what women could or couldn’t achieve. Wise surmises that even greats like Einstein and Darwin grew their theories on evolution off of the stories they read. She chuckles, “Whether you’re reading Harry Potter or Great Expectations, you’re reading the kind of plot that inspired Darwin.”

Stories are important. They help us relate. They help us remember. They make topics matter, to transcend beyond print. Today, we invite you to consider what stories have helped shape your life. Are there similar themes? What lessons do they teach? And finally, Wise urges us to consider if the lessons they taught still align with the future we want to build. After all, stories are powerful things. Especially the stories we tell ourselves.