What you read is more important than you think

What you read is more important than you think

Reading is one of the best habits we can develop, one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. In fact, a good novel has been shown to be like a massage for our neurons. However, it is not worth reading to pass the time, reading anything that passes through our hands is not beneficial, both cognitively and emotionally. It is therefore important to be as selective as possible in choosing what we read.

The "light" content does not contribute anything

A study conducted at the University of Florida sounded the alarm: it found that college students' readings directly affect their level of writing. These psychologists have found that not only how often we read matters but the quality of the content as well.

In practice, young people who read magazines and academic literature write with greater sophistication and make fewer mistakes than those who just read news and web content. Consequently, these psychologists made a distinction between "deep reading" and "light reading".

Deep reading is slow and engaging, full of sensory, emotional and moral details, it is a complex reading that goes beyond the simple decoding of words. We can speak of deep reading when it contains metaphors, allusions and complex concepts, both from a cognitive and an emotional point of view. When a novel is profound we can empathize with its pages, and it promotes reflection and empathy.

However, "light" reading does not offer these advantages as it is fast, little attention is paid to it and is forgotten after a few minutes. These psychologists believe that many of the daily news, entertainment magazines and more 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 for the brain

Deep reading is an explosion of sensations for our brain. In fact, it has been found that it activates different centers in the brain that must work together so that we can understand what we read by experiencing the experience firsthand. Reading activates the Broca area, which allows us to perceive rhythm and syntax, also activates the Wernicke area, which is involved in the perception of words and their meaning, as well as the angular gyrus, which is fundamental for the perception and use of language.

As if that weren't enough, deep reading also activates other areas of the brain related to perception and emotions, which indicates that we not only understand what we read, but we are also living the adventures by putting ourselves in the shoes of the characters. A good novel is able to activate the areas of the brain associated with physical sensations and motor systems, as well as the emotional brain, which allows us to cry or laugh along with the characters.

Therefore, it is not surprising to find that after reading a good novel the person's level of empathy increases, and he is able to better understand the ideas of others, even if different from his own, and share their emotional states.

Poetry is an example of a very special "deep reading". Recently, neuroscientists have discovered that all kinds of reading activates what is called the "reading network", which allows you to understand text, memorize it and think about it.

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

So next time you take a few minutes to read, make sure it's worth it. Choose content that excites you, that makes you think, that arouses your curiosity and entertains you.


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