Friday, July 22, 2016

What you read is more important than you think


Reading is one of the best habits you can develop, one of the best gifts we can do to ourselves. In fact, it has been shown that a good novel is like a massage for our neurons. However, it is not worth reading just to pass the time, reading anything that comes to hand does not bring benefits, both at the cognitive level and emotional. It is therefore important to be as selective as possible in choosing what we read.

The "light" content doesn’t give anything

A study conducted at the University of Florida has issued a warning: it was discovered that the readings of the university students directly influence their level of writing. These psychologists have found that not only count how often we read but also the quality of the content.

In practice, young people who read magazines and academic literature write with greater sophistication and commit fewer errors than those who only read news and web content. As a result, these psychologists have made a distinction between “deep Reading” and “light Reading”.

Deep reading is slow and engaging, rich in sensory detail, emotional and moral, is a complex interpretation that goes beyond the simple decoding of words. We can talk about deep reading when it contains metaphors, allusions and complex concepts, both cognitively and emotionally. When a novel is deep we can put ourselves in its pages, and promotes reflection and empathy.

However, the “light” reading doesn’t offer these advantages as it is fast, usually receives little attention and is forgotten after a few minutes. These psychologists believe that many of the daily news, entertainment magazines and most insignificant content that can be found on the Internet, can be classified as “light” reading because they do not promote reflection and do not generate emotional involvement.

Deep reading, an explosion of sensations to the brain

Deep reading is an explosion of sensations to our brain. In fact, it was found that activates the various centers of the brain that have to work together so that we can understand what we read and experience firsthand. Reading activates the Broca's area, which allows us to feel the rhythm and syntax, even active Wernicke's area, which is involved in our perception of the words and their meanings, as well as the angular gyrus, which is critical for the perception and the use of language.

What's more, the profound reading also activates other brain areas related to perception and emotions, which indicates that we not only understand what we read, but we are living the adventures into the characters shoes. A good novel is able to activate the brain areas associated with physical sensations and motor systems, as well as the emotional brain, allowing us to laugh or cry along with the characters.

Therefore, it’s not surprisingly to find that a good novel increases the level of the person's empathy, who’s able to better understand the ideas of others, even if different from his own, and share emotional states.

Poetry is a good example of “deep Reading”. Recently, neuroscientists have discovered that all the writings activate what is called the “reading network”, which allows you understand the text, store it and think about it.

But compared to prose, poetry activates areas of the brain which are completely different, especially when it comes to a poetry that we like. In fact, poems activate the posterior cingulate cortex and the medial temporal lobes, parts of the brain linked to introspection, as well as some specific regions of the right hemisphere, the same that react to music.

Therefore, the next time you dedicate a few minutes to read, make sure it's worth it. Choose a material that is exciting for you, that makes you think, awakens your curiosity and you can enjoy.

Douglas, Y. & Miller, S. (2016) Syntactic Complexity of Reading Content Directly Impacts Complexity of Mature Students’ Writing. International Journal of Business Administration; 7(3).
Adam, Z. et. Al. (2013) By Heart An fMRI Study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose. Journal of Consciousness Studies; 20(9-10): 132-158.


Keep feeding your neurons

What you read is more important than you think

Jennifer Delgado Suárez

Psicologist by profession and passion, dedicated to string words together. Discover my Books


Psychology as you never heard about...

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