Reading about something and experiencing it firsthand are not all that different in your brain.
From e-180 mag
When I was little, my mother told me a story of how my father’s boss once drove them to his house for dinner. “As we passed houses along the suburban street, I saw one that was made of angel stone – you know that awful fake stone – and I blurted out how I hated angel stone. I said it to fill up the silence. And almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, didn’t we pull into the driveway of a huge, angel stone house. I could’ve died.”
Even though I was only ten, I pictured my young mother, eager to do her part to impress the boss. Felt her embarrassment in the back of the dark car, saw my father’s profile as he turned, heard the uncomfortable silence as the boss switched off the ignition. In this simple story, without my mother ever having to summarize, I learned to keep my mouth shut about such things until I knew where someone lived.
When someone tells us a story, they transfer their experience directly into our brains. We feel what they felt. Annie Murphy Paul explains in Your Brain on Fiction that the brain “does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated”.