Science Magazine

Be Smarter and Nicer by Reading Literature

Posted on the 17 March 2015 by Gaurav Tiwari @wpgaurav

There has recently been speculation that reading has no discernible benefit to the human mind. This challenges the conventional thinking that reading makes us smarter. However, evidence shows that reading does have a positive effect on our brains. Not only does it make us smarter it can also make us nicer people.

Be Smarter and Nicer by Reading Literature

Fiction books make us more emphatic

Several studies performed over the years showed that those of us who read fiction have much better developed abilities. Understanding and empathy are two of the key traits discovered. The research also acknowledged that some people are naturally more empathetic than others. Fiction is a genre that consists of stories; these stories are related to people, their relationships and their mental states. That being said, fiction books could make us more emphatic. A separate study that monitored children attempted to find a link about the genre and their perceptions. It was found that those who read fiction had keener perception skills, particularly when judging other people's intentions.

Deep reading is fading away

Unfortunately, the art of deep reading is under threat. Deep reading is the immersion of someone into a good book or story, and blocking the rest of the world out while doing it. You become a part of the book and do your bit in the story. Many of us read pages on the Internet or scan the newspapers or magazines and maybe even read a leaflet.

Very few of us will still curl up with a good book. Deep reading teaches our brains not just to read but to interpret what we've just read. Like any good skill, it needs regular practice. Should this skill be lost it would be detrimental to our intellect and to our very understanding of many written works of art.

Be Smarter and Nicer by Reading Literature

The art of deep reading

There are many scientists performing research in the field of cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience. It has been shown that deep reading is a far more complex type of reading to just decoding the words on a page. This can only be fully achieved by reading a physical book. There are no distractions when reading an actual book. No hyper-links to change your thought process or take you off in a different direction. With just the book, you are free to explore the world being created and to envision building on that world.

Immersion encourages the brain to build a mental picture of the story and allows the events to unfold as though it was part of real life. This is simply because the same part of the brain which handles deeper meaning in daily life is used to handle the rich language and images created by reading a book. A really good book will immerse us to the extent that we feel for the characters and need to deal with the same dilemmas they are facing. This is far more challenging for the brain than the daily scan of web news.

Reading literatures keeps the brain active and alert

Interesting research has suggested that reading is not a natural activity for the brain. Every one of us needs to learn to read. Like many things, our ability to read weakens if we do not practice regularly. The part of our brains which has been trained to read can, over time, revert back to its original use. Books have the great power of keeping the brain in alert. Bestselling books in particular, stir our curiosity and they have a special power of keeping us engaged for extended periods of time.

Be Smarter and Nicer by Reading Literature

It is also concerning that many young people now read via electronic devices. I have personally used Amazon's Kindle to read books and magazines. These electronic books (e-books) are relatively cheaper than physical books and can be deeply formated according to reader's needs. Also, those can be delivered to your library instantly. However, there has been a study into the enjoyment of reading. The results showed that children reading via electronic media are three times less likely to enjoy the experience than those who read physical books. Additionally, the research discovered that children who only read electronically were much less likely to become above average readers than those who read physical books. Digital reading is simply less satisfying and most of us can't relate to an electronic device. It would appear the physical book needs to make a comeback, but can actual books compete with fancy tablets and e-readers? There are several options to get cheap physical books. For example, I use Amazon.IN as my primary book store. Every time I buy a book ( or even an e-book ) I look for Amazon India coupons and Amazon India vouchers at Zoutons.com . After applications of coupons, one can get significant discounts on books. Sometimes, book prices are almost halved making even cheaper than their e-book counterparts.


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