In a plain white cover that belies its wide-ranging and culturally rich content, Norman N. Holland's latest (16th) book, Literature and the Brain explores what we know about how our brains and minds react to the arts. Holland, also a PT blogger, goes beyond the concept of being transported by a work of art (being pulled into flow by it), and tackles the question of why we feel real emotions toward unreal things. Part of the explanation is that "when we enjoy a literary work fully, by being 'transported,' we turn off reality-testing." We (our brains) agree to suspend disbelief and let ourselves feel as though what we're reading or watching is real.
What happened the last time you read a novel or saw a film? Perhaps a mystery or something with vampires or a literary novel. You probably didn't think, at the time, about how your brain was playing tricks on you. You knew, of course, that the action in the story wasn't really happening, hadn't really happened, but your brain took liberties. And if the story was at all well told, you may have experienced real emotional arousal.