Literature

Do You Hear Book Characters In Your Head? There's A Name For That

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You went on an all-night Harry Potter book bender, and now you swear Hermione's British accent is following you at work. Hermione is asking you why there are so many muggles, and neither she nor Emma Watson work in your building. This odd phenomenon affects a fifth of all readers, and it has been coined experiential crossing.

Related: Whether You Read or Listen, Your Brain Processes Books The Same Way

Why we're covering this:

  • Plenty of bookworms can relate and—good news!—it doesn't mean you're crazy.
  • Because reading a good book can be completely immersive, and a new study backs that.

Sensory Overload

If you hear voices from your favorite literary characters even after you've stopped reading, don't fret. Experiential crossing is totally harmless. While there's a common misconception that auditory hallucinations are a sign of a psychosis, such as schizophrenia, many people without disorders hear voices in their daily lives, especially novelists and avid readers.

Related: Having Books In The Home Is As Important To Your Child As Your Own Education

You don't have to hear Hermione's voice in your office to experience sensory immersion from reading. In 2014, The Guardian teamed up with researchers to survey 1,500 attendees of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. According to New York Magazine, 400 of the volunteers gave reports about the kinds of sensory experiences they had while reading a good book and after putting it down. Their experiences included feeling characters' voices, their reactions, and, for some, even the "landscape, weather, smells, touch, [and] sounds" described by the characters themselves.

Related: Meet The 4-Year-Old Who Has Read More Than 1,000 Books

Maybe You're Hermione

Why does it happen? While researchers have yet to discover a definitive answer, they've noticed that people who experience experiential crossing also talk to themselves (another quirk that's surprisingly common). For some readers, it might be as simple as the fact that a character reminds them of a friend or even of themselves. In that instance, a character's voice may simply be representing a part of your personality.

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