(Photo:Flickr/Marc- who just moved)

Society has long touted the importance of encouraging reading among young adults, but The Guardian is reporting that researchers from the University of Buffalo found that fiction novels have a surprising effect on their readers. The studies found that when teens read the Harry Potter and Twilight books, they began to empathize with the characters and actually began to feel like wizards and vampires.

In one of the studies, researchers asked 140 undergraduate students to read passages from either Twilight or Harry Potter that delved into the lifestyles of vampires and wizards. Afterward, the respondents were given a series of tests with which they categorized words as either “me” words, “wizard” words or “vampire” words, as the words they were shown related to each category. The researchers found that when the “me” words correlated to the book passage they had just read, the students would respond to the word much faster.

According to the study’s authors, “The current research suggests that books give readers more than an opportunity to tune out and submerge themselves in fantasy worlds. Books provide the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from becoming a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.