Originally Published on OpEdNewsColumbia Journalism Review: Stories have powerful effects on us. We feel empathy for characters just as we do for flesh-and-blood people, and the act of reading about them might even make us more empathetic in real life, change our opinions, and push us to action. Research shows that the human brain naturally supports empathy, but that empathic responses increase as we gather more information about others. Narratives spark feelings of empathy in much the same way, which is why stories have the power to influence minds and motivate action. A second field of academic inquiry suggests that reading time and focus may diminish as our reading habits migrate to computer screens. Ultimately, that decrease of time and focus could affect how much empathy we feel for characters in stories.