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Fictional characters influence us in real life, study reveals

The voices of fictional characters can stay with us long after we turn the final page

Roisin O'Connor
Wednesday 15 February 2017 16:25 GMT

Fictional characters can influence readers in real life, a study has found.

Durham University researchers surveyed more than 1,500 readers and asked 400 of those to provide detailed descriptions of their experiences with a book.

19 per cent of those said that the voices of fictional characters stayed with them after they had finished reading, influences the tone of their thoughts and even directly "speaking" to them.

According to one of the paper's authors, writer and psychologist Charles Fernyhough, the study shows how readers of fiction are actively recreating the worlds and characters described by the writer.

"For many of us, this can involve experiencing the characters in a novel as people we interact with," he said. "One in seven of our respondents, for example, said they heard the voices of fictional characters as clearly as if there was someone in the room with them."

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Guardian at the 2014 Edinburgh international book festival, and also learned that characters heard the voices of characters while reading most or all of the time.

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