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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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How Reading Expands the Sense of Self

April 24, 2011, 4:25 AM
Book

What's the Latest Development?

New psychological research out of the University of Buffalo demonstrates how, "When we read, we psychologically become part of the community described in the narrative—be they wizards or vampires. That mechanism satisfies the deeply human, evolutionarily crucial, need for belonging." Experiments conducted by the research team indicated that after reading books like Harry Potter and Twilight, subjects felt themselves to be more closely associated with the community of characters in the books. "Belonging" to these communities, although they are make-believe, gave subjects feelings of satisfaction associated with having real human relationships. 

What's the Big Idea?

Our individual need to be connected with a community means identifying ourselves with the characteristics shared by a group of people, whether it is family, workmates, school friends, etc. Preferring to think of one's self as individual and something stronger than a group's influence is incompatible with truly engaging people as a group. What is surprising is that we can effectively engage with imaginary groups. More surprising still, we identify ourselves with imaginary groups even if they are composed of wizards and vampires. Our need for belonging is both deep-seated and highly creative. 

 

How Reading Expands the Sen...

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