How Reading Rewires Our Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy
There are a lot of topics about how to look good, and how to be healthy. Physical exercise results in great abs, bulging biceps, firm butt, etc. Eating well nutritional foods makes us healthier. But, there is one topic called reading that has been escaped, and it makes us smarter, healthier, and more empathic.
In order to read people need to be patient, persevering, and determined. Only scanning some headlines or retweeting does not make a difference. In fact, those kinds of readings are harmful just like sugar addiction. Gathering information in just 140 characters is lazy. On the contrary, narrating offers something more.
Reading books has a lot of benefits especially in the era of smartphones. About ¼ of American children do not learn to read (1). This is bad because it puts them in danger of not being able to develop socially as well as intellectually. It handicaps them forever.
According to a study from 2009 in which were examined 72 children at the age of 8-10, reading helps the creation of new white substances in the brain which serves to improve system-wide communication. (2)
This white substance transfers the information between regions of grey substance where all of the information is processed. Besides increasing the white substance, reading also improves the processing of information.
Being able to read in one language is very beneficial, but if you add one more language, then your communication skills are much better. You are able to have conversations with a lot of people, and the spatial navigation and learning new information regions become bigger. (3)
Also, by learning a new language, your overall memory improves too. According to the aspects of neuroscience, language has an impact on many regions in your brain including the actions you are reading about. (4)
For instance, when you read about “soap and lavender,” the scent parts in your brain become activated. And, when you read “chair” the regions do not become active, but reading “leather chair” your sensory cortex becomes active.
Let’s connect with the first paragraph. When you imagine the biomechanics that you need for doing squats, your motor cortex activates. Many athletes have imagined their movements.
For instance, Serena Williams imagined her serve, Conor McGregor imagined his kicks, and Usain Bolt imagines his excellent speed, and they did this to gain a better proficiency while moving. This happens because they are practicing by making their brains practice.
Having firm glutes is one thing, but being human is another, and you achieve that by reading. Instead of punching and sprints, why don’t we try empathy which is necessary for human society? Reading the works of Rabbit Angstrom and Jason Tyler, besides feeling the pain and happiness, you actually experience it.
In fact, reading offers people to enter into someone else’s thoughts and feelings. This affects our way of communication with others.
When it happens for some young boy to misbehave, you will not think “Hey, according to David Mitchell I should do this,” but you may have acquired something from the lessons about boys who are trying to figure out life and show a different understating in your reaction.
Also, you may even rethink trolling people on social media who have a different political opinion. You may remember that behind smartphones or computers, there are real humans who have feelings. If you want to argue, you need to do it in an intelligent way.
Reading makes us more intelligent, and according to research besides intelligence, it helps with comprehension and emotional intelligence too. You become able to make wiser decisions about yourself and the people close to you.
In order to get the benefits you need to read, and that leads to developing a philosophy instead of being a part of an agenda and trolling on social media. Being able to notice the intentions of another person is also important in constructing ideology.
And, novels are perfect for this chore. One study from 2011 which was published in the Annual Review of Psychology revealed overlap in the regions of the brain utilized for understanding stories and those networks about communication with others. (5)
Even though novels are time-consuming, their benefits are worth it. As explained by one study, poetry provokes strong emotions in readers as well as listeners. During the listening of poetry, the participants experienced increased heartbeat, facial expressions, and goosebumps. (6)
Also, 40 % of people who were listening to music or watching a movie showed visible goosebumps. Some other studies have shown that listening to poems activated parts of the brain that were not active during listening to music or watching movies.
The responses happened at the end of a poem or a stanza. This is suitable for our innate need for narration. So, when there is no conclusion, our brain creates one, and when that conclusion is false, there are sad feelings. Well, we should all turn to poetry.
Attention is important whether it is a verse of Amiri Baraka or a trilogy by Margaret Atwood. According to research from Stanford, there was a neurological difference while reading for pleasure and reading for a test. Reading conduction is responsible for which areas is the blood flow going. (7)
The scientists have hope that maybe this would help in finding clues for improving the cognitive training techniques. People often possess intense memories of their connection with reading. For instance, one may remember while trying to write their first book, creating some mock newspaper, reading a book for school, etc.
Like any other skill, reading needs regular and constant practice. Although it is hard to tell if the reading has made you smarter, it is okay to imagine it has. And, life has no meaning if we are not able to share stories, and reading books offers much more than reading something else.
By diving deep into a book, you enter into some other undiscovered worlds.
Below is a video in which Jeffrey Brenzel explains his point of view about reading the right books since we cannot read all of them.