The processing of real and fictional scenarios activated a common set of regions including medial-temporal lobe structures. When the scenarios involved real people, brain regions associated with episodic memory retrieval and self-referential thinking, the anterior prefrontal cortex and the precuneus/posterior cingulate, were more active. In contrast, areas along the left lateral inferior frontal gyrus (shown in the graphic), associated with semantic memory retrieval, were implicated for scenarios with fictional characters. This implies that there is a fine distinction in the manner in which conceptual information concerning real persons in contrast to fictional characters is represented. In general terms, the findings suggest that fiction relative to reality tends to be represented in more factual terms, whereas our representations of reality relative to fiction are colored by personal subjectivity. What modulates our understanding of the relative difference between reality and fiction seems to be whether such character-type information is coded in self-relevant terms or not.
The authors note their agreement with the statement of William James: "In the relative sense, then, the sense in which we contrast reality with simple unreality, ... reality means simply relation to our emotional and active life