« It does grow on trees: Comfort Azubuko on food forests in public space | Main | A focused, relaxing ride: Arielle Pardes on the “slow web” »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Hunter Renard

Hello. Jonathan Gottshall is an American literary critic specializing in literature and evolution. He teaches at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, as well as he is the author or editor of seven books.
"We are addicted to stories. Even when our body is asleep, the mind is awake all night, telling stories to itself. "
In some ways, he's right. We write our stories every day, but we do not really think about it. After all, as we behave with people today, we can hang around tomorrow or a little later. All the problems that we do not want to solve ourselves, then they'll go down on us like a lump. Moreover, at each age the perception of the same problems is different. For example, a student experiencing difficulty with writing research papers considers this a big problem. And their writers http://essaymap.org/research-paper/ solve it at a time.
So what prevents us from becoming the author of our life, the one we write ourselves and how we dream? Live now, enjoy every moment. After all, as the wise King Solomon said, "Everything will pass" ...

B. Tropper

In his essay “Why fiction is good for you,” Jonathan Gottschall makes a compelling case that fiction helps develop human character. He argues that, “while fiction often dwells on lewdness, depravity, and simple selfishness, story tellers virtually always put us in a position to judge wrongdoing, and we do so with gusto” (Gottschall). Furthermore, he points out that fiction is dominated by poetic justice and that, “…fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good” (Gottschall). Taking his argument to the next level he argues profoundly, that fiction can be more effective than nonfiction in shaping character. When we read nonfiction we are guarded, critical, and skeptical, and so the lesson may not penetrate. In contrast, when absorbed in a story of fiction we drop our intellectual guard and are moved and inspired emotionally. Notwithstanding the strength of his argument, ultimately factual accounts of real heroes and true displays of character and virtue have the power to strengthen and inspire the human spirit far more than fictitious ones. When confronted with real-life challenges a person needs real-life examples to guide him. “If he could do it I could do it;” a fictional hero is insufficient. I could learn from my grandfather’s persistence to be persistent. I could learn from my uncle’s integrity to be honest. I can learn from my mother’s compassion to be kind. Fictional heroes are wonderful and perhaps useful in cultivating values and shaping character, but in real-life moments of conflict and challenge a person can only turn to real heroes for inspiration and strength.


I think Fiction is good for individual in the same way that the author. For me, Fiction is a way to forget about reality of life and find a better way to see the world. In his text, Gottschall is explaining how Fiction is good and benefits to us. Fiction is shaping us for the good. He gave many examples to show it like, “For example, studies reliably show that when we watch a TV show that treats gay families non judgmentally (say, “Modern Family”), our own views on homosexuality are likely to move in the same nonjudgmental direction. History, too, reveals fiction’s ability to change our values at the societal level, for better and worse.” which mean that Fiction is helping us to see things differently, in a better way.

patrick o'connor

Patrick O’Connor
Professor Yeager
September 30, 2018
Fiction is good for me, Jonathan
Tim died yesterday. An old high school associate with a contagious smile and welcoming energy, Tim was a guy I gravitated toward back in the day. After graduation we would occasionally run into each other at bars and parties and have the typical “what’s new” conversation. After a few such encounters, Tim just blurted out to me, “Man I’m sick of these conversations with the high school crew. From now on when I see you I’m gonna get to the important stuff: what’re you watching on TV?” We shared a laugh about it, but from then on that’s exactly what we asked each other. The ensuing conversations were usually quite revealing to where we were as young adults, brushing off our formidable years and learning how we were going to fit in the world. I recall one particular conversation where he revealed to me he just bought a cheap violin after binge watching the BBC series “Sherlock”. We were aware of the influence these fictional worlds held on us and we enjoyed the absurdity of it all. Reading Jonathan Gottscall’s article on fiction’s influence on the mind brought me back to those engaging conversations with an old friend. I find my thoughts with his family at this time, but also there is a remorse that I will never have another snapshot of where he was by what he was watching.
I recall reading an article a while back with the same topic as Gottschall’s and began to monitor my reading habits through the new lens these studies brought to my attention. I found that I had an easier time relating to my coworkers and classmates if I found similarities between them and a fictional character I read about. With a conscious awareness of this correlation I found it a lot easier to let “them do them”, so to speak. Gottschall speaks of “rose colored glasses” that empathetic readers wear when looking at the world, and I believe that is true… to a point. I would define myself as a realist, my personal experiences have shown me that life is what it is at times. Happily ever after is a pipe dream. In my younger years I was reading quite a bit of classic literature, where everything is tied up neatly in 400 pages. I never saw that happening for me, but at the same time I began to realize that if I compartmentalized certain tasks or blocks of time I could more easily foresee a happy ending. A good week or job is a lot more believable to me than a good life or career. This, I believe, is a learned skill that was nourished by my countless hours of escape reading. But at the same time my worldview does not match Gottschalls theory that I, as an avid fiction reader, believe that goodness prevails. Now I may be an exception to the rule, but it is simply not the case for me.
The theories and studies discussed in this article seem to hold water in my own personal experience. I do believe certain social behaviors of mine have been honed through my reading and watching habits. The one question that remains for me is: does that make me a better person? I believe, like most portions of life and society as a whole, that the improvement lies in the awareness of the influence. Once the recognition of where a pattern of behavior begins is achieved, only then am I able to utilize its benefits. I have found it is easier for me to “turn on” empathetic thoughts and actions if I associate them with a larger narrative. Without knowing there is an “on” switch, I would just be tripping in the dark.

Bailey Williams

Fiction is good for us it does "mold us" and it helps us get more into the story and it can even "change our beliefs". Fiction helps people to become more creative and get deeper. In a study, it showed that "children (age 4-6) who were exposed to a large number of children’s books and films had a significantly stronger ability to read the mental and emotional states of other people." Which proves that Fiction helps children become more understanding and creative.Most of the time fiction even "teaches us that it is profitable to be good." which when kids see that being nice is rewarding they tend to be nice. I think Fiction is a great thing!

Larisa Ruth

Jonathan Gottschall says that fiction is good for people:“Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds.” The author is saying that because of the emotion that characters give off, we start to understand them and it helps to for us to understand real life people. It helps us to see what others believe in. I’ve never really thought of the benefits of reading fiction, but I agree with Gottschall. He says that people can learn to be more accepting of things by watching a tv show: “For example, studies reliably show that when we watch a TV show that treats gay families nonjudgmentally (say, “Modern Family”), our own views on homosexuality are likely to move in the same nonjudgmental direction. “ Fiction helps us to understand that there is evil in the world and that nothing is perfect. “In other words, fiction seems to teach us to see the world through rose-colored lenses.” The author has some really good points in this article.


In contrast to Cheikh's 8/9/2018 post, indicating that fiction is a good way to "forget about the reality of life and find a better way to see the world", I would argue that good fiction should actually force us to stop forgetting about the reality of life and hopefully take an in depth look at aspects of life we may have never before considered.

Powerful fiction should shine a mirror on society, reminding us of the realities of life so that positive changes can be made, even if this is often accomplished through images and stories that appear to be very different from our own world.

-Adam Fauth

Alyssa Lane

According to Jonathan Gottschall, “Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds.” Gotchall is saying that because of the emotion that characters give off, we start to understand them and it helps for us to understand real life people. It helps us to see what others believe in. “ Fiction helps us to understand that there is evil in the world and that nothing is perfect." Which is exactly why people tell stories to understand the many things in this world. Overall Gottschall had really amazing points in his article.

Erika Fernandez

In this article Jonathan Barlett discusses the advantages and disadvantages that fiction has in our society. Barlett goes in depth about fiction being used in the past using examples like Plato. According to Barlett, fiction is more effective at changing beliefs than non-fiction is. I think that with fiction we can escape our world and go into a made up world that seems better in our eyes because in a way we can relate to the characters and sometimes become the character. But with non-fiction we can't do any of that. We basically read in someone else's point of view and their opinion about the topic being read. Non-fiction is just straight up facts. Fiction helps us be better people, it molds our society into ways that we can all see through one equal view. The example that Barlett used was Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", which showed the country that blacks are real, living people.Fiction effectively shapes us as an audience to understand other people. Fiction isn't just books, it's also the TV shows and movies that we watch. Fiction is there to provide us entertainment and escape our reality while non-fiction is there to persuade us through argument and evidence.

Rachel Harrell

In his article, Jonathon Gottschall bring up the question of the influence of fiction on humanity. He argues both sides of the story, saying “Fiction is dangerous because it has the power to modify the principles of both individuals and whole societies.” In the same breath, he quotes George Eliot, saying “one of fiction’s main jobs is to ‘enlarge men’s sympathies’.” He even goes so far as to say “Fiction seems to teach us to see the world through rose-colored lenses”, referencing the fact that some researchers believe that fiction may teach us to think the world is far more just than it truly is. But, in the end, Gottschall seems to agree that fiction is good for all of humanity, teaching us to understand those around us and show more empathy in general.

For the most part, I agree with Gottschall. I have been a fiction reader all my life, and as an introvert, it has given me a pathway to better understand those around me. I would also add that it’s a powerful form of escapism that can help those struggling with their day-to-day life to feel some relief. While the world may seem more just and filled with heroes than it really is to those of us who read fiction, it may give us the mindset to show more kindness and empathy to those around us.


I agree that fiction can help young children develop social skills and that it improves their reading skills. I also believe that if small children start to read from a young age they tend to enjoy reading when they are older. Fiction books help young children develop imagination skills and it teaches them how to dream. This will help them later in life. Fiction books are good because they show children that anything is possible and that they can accomplish their dreams if they put their minds to it.

Nathan Mehta

In the essay “Why fiction is good for you” by Johnathan Gottschall, the author persuades the reader of the virtues and positive effects fiction storytelling has on an individual life. From the use of it to define good and evil to the subtle way it forces the reader of fiction to develop empathy, Gottschall talks about it all. I wholeheartedly agree with him. In our current day and age, many people point to fictional writing as a bad influence on an individual's ideas and motives. As Gottschall writes in his essay, “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 [the] youth”(Gottschall). Violence in fiction shouldn’t be the focus, because the violence portrayed is usually based on some form of reality. It’s the obsession with is, the normality of it all that should cause distress.

Hannah Boyce

Hannah Boyce
Ms. Smith
ENGL 102
5 October 2019
We’re Talking About Fiction, But We Can’t Make This Stuff Up
In today’s world full of storytellers and make believe, author Johnathan Gottschall argues that fiction is in fact valuable to consumers, as it enhances empathy and rallies the community together. As the author takes us through a series of studies and scientific research, he attempts to convey that fiction strengthens interpersonal relationships as consumers are able to identify with and evaluate or learn from different fictional situations or plots. Gottschall even touches on how studies have proven fiction more effective at changing and challenging beliefs, as people respond more to empathy than non-fiction tactic of showcasing arguments and evidence. Rather than merely laying out facts, fiction possesses the power to connect with viewers on a deeper moral level. Although the author acknowledges that fiction may be dangerous in the way that it can modify individuals’ perceptions of societal principles, he ultimately concludes that the interpersonal understanding learned from fiction is to be valued.
As an avid fiction consumer, I agree with Gottschall that fiction has the power to grow our morals and expand our understanding of interpersonal relationships. From the beginning of time, stories have pathed the way for connecting with others, even if that only meant scribbles on a cave wall. Numbers and statistics do not have the same power that stories do, in the way that they provoke emotion and reach people of all different age groups. As we live our lives a story is also being lived out. Therefore, it makes since to say all different types of individuals can connect with a story, as everyone is part of their own story. Ultimately, facts and non-fiction may not provide an outlet for individuals to learn empathy and morality like a fictional book or movie that can as they stage situations and show how characters respond. Although the world is not as black and white morality as some fiction media outlets may convey, fiction still provides a foundation for social development. Fiction definitely has the ability to be positively impactful in forming a variety of people skills, despite the common claims that “it rots the brain.”


Oh my god I need to write toulmin review for this article.., I’m not ready ((((


In literature we learn that there are no new or original works. Everything is based off of old literature which includes the Bible, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare. The reason is because human nature has stayed constant throughout time. Not only human nature, but beliefs as well. The question is whether fiction is or is not good for us. Some state that it is not good since it is not based on reality but rather a false reality. In this article, Gottschall argues that fiction has the power to shape human character and can be a useful tool to get a message a cross compared to nonfiction. When we read nonfiction we do not read with an open mind. Instead we read with a prior opinion formulated. We easily to reject nonfiction. An example would be the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book tells the story of an enslaved man and about the brutality he and other slaves endured. Before this book, many authors had written their opinions out but this fiction tale had the biggest impact on society. Many think that is was one of the causes of the civil war. It was not a nonfiction text that made people react, but rather a fictional one. As children, schools teach lessons through fictional stories and characters. You are taught what is considered right and wrong. We cannot go up to a child and explain “adult” things without making it simpler. In the same way, fiction makes concepts simpler and more relatable to the reader. Gottschall writes, “fiction generally teaches us that it is profitable to be good.'' Fiction teaches us to become good characters. If we become good characters then we become good citizens in society. If fiction is helping build a good society why should it be frowned upon?


I really enjoyed and agreed with Jonathan Gottschall blog “Why is fiction good for you?” because almost every person worldwide has come into contact with fiction and we never question why. In his blog Gottschall argues that “stories really can change our views” and he talks about it for better or maybe for worse. Gottschall mentions in the article that works of fiction “warp our sense of reality” making this comment, warns that fiction may have a negative effect on us. Gottschall also states “stories really can change our views” in a positive or negative way, Gottschall used the example of homosexuality where he states” our own views on homosexuality are likely to move in the same nonjudgmental direction” due to works of fiction. This show that Gottschall believes works of fiction can change a person’s attitude or even perspective due to how the is topic shown. Personally, I agree with Gottschall that each work of fiction causes changes within us, whether for the better or worse. It’s really up to what the work of fiction is trying to portray. In his blog post Gottschall uses the pronoun “we” throughout his blog post and if he were to use “you” instead I believe it would cause the reader to feel that the author is accusing them of being affected by fiction instead of him just arguing the point of how fiction may affect people’s lives in different ways. If Gottschall used the pronoun “they” it would make it seem that he’s talking about others and not including a certain group of people. So, I feel that Gottschall made the best choice in choosing he pronoun “we” due to the fact he’s including everyone, not excluding himself, as well making it a much more open blog for anyone and everyone to enjoy. I love reading many works of fiction in my day-to-day life and personally I feel fiction is important to our lives because it can influence our likes and dislikes for subjects or things.

Zsharylle P

In fiction, the stories, the characters, even the setting is a way in which we as people can relate to an idea on paper, and either follow in their footsteps of greatness or learn from the mistakes of those who have fallen. As a fiction enthusiast myself and with my boyfriend as well, we see how these stories have actually shaped our own characters to become the people we are now. We are not only able to put ourselves into the shoes of these characters, but some of us can sympathize with them, many times having been through similar circumstances (either currently or in the past). As a result, we are able to see ourselves in the stories we read, regardless of whether the characters are human or not. One of humanity's greatest abilities includes the potential for sympathy and empathy, of understanding and of change. As we view the stories of not only the heroes, but the villains, not only the royals, but of the peasants, we are able to understand a wider range of emotions and perspectives that not only changes the way we interact with the world but also how we view ourselves. Many communities revolve around these ideas, and more fictionally stories with modern twists keep these ideas relevant in the eyes of society. In the eyes of many, these imaginative stories are a waste of time, and to a certain extent, they can be. But as the stories grow in depth and in volume with emotion, creativity, art and soul, one's morality and ethical views change as well, and for the better at that. People begin to see the good in others, are able to make the best decisions for themselves and are able to better give back to the groups of people that matter most to them. Fictional stories aren't real, they are simple ideas from simple people, but the lessons they teach are what shape the minds of its followers.

Noah Singh

When growing up I was always told to go read a book. But as many kids feel I wasn’t always fond of that idea. Eventually my mom got me to pick out a book, my first choice was always one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. This one was my favorite series of books because it would always give me a good laugh on every page. I believe that fiction novels have many positive side effects. In Johnathan Gottschall “Why Fiction Is Good For You?” he said, “Virtually all storytelling, regardless of genre, increases society’s fund of empathy and reinforces an ethic of decency that is deeper than politics.”. He is saying that storytelling has more of an effect than you may realize. It helps people understand hardships and things that haven’t experienced before better. Although some may say that fiction is mentally corrosive to you, and it leads to potential violent behavior. People believe this because of the violent fiction novels and movies that are being created in this current time. But the violence isn’t the main purpose for the shows, it’s the message behind it. And I feel like they know that.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

By signing up you agree to W. W. Norton’s
privacy policy and terms of use.

About They Say / I Blog

  • New readings posted monthly, on the same issues that are covered in “They Say / I Say” with Readings—and with a space where readers can comment, and join the conversation.

Follow us on Twitter to get updates about new posts and more! @NortonWrite

Become a Fan