Once again, it’s a rainy, rainy Friday. I innocently went into a bookstore yesterday, intending to pick up a copy of Anna Karenina. But I somehow walked out with a collector’s set of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a lengthy bit of Gogol as well (THERE WAS A SALE, OK?) – so my weekend plans are looking something like this:
Not to mention, this is my last weekend before I’m back to university, so I should probably take all the unfettered and guilt-free reading time I can get. I don’t know about you, but after finishing a book I find myself thinking about alternate conversations with characters or the writer…pretty frequently. Which might seem crazy, but it’s not. Why? SCIENCE, THAT’S WHY.
According to a recent study, reading (silently) produces the same effects in the brain as actually hearing speech. This idea delights me. It’s a gorgeous, and most importantly, SCIENCY way to explain the level of engagement that comes with a good book. Not to mention a nice way to make me feel less crazy for getting so involved with a great narrative voice.
My background in neurolinguistics is not strong enough to explain this perfectly, and someone has already done a brilliant job over at Neurotic Physiology – I highly recommend you go have a read, the article is really interesting.
I also love the assertion that we all spend most of our days covertly muttering to ourselves anyway – and if reading produces a speech like reaction in our brain, does that mean that our internal chatter counts as real conversation too? If that’s the case, then there’s definitely room for further work on how internal speech can affect our psychological state. Self-help books and counselors (I’m looking at you, Dr. Phil) often say that our internal monologue can be incredibly damaging. Although it’s a bit of a stretch, extrapolating from this study does tentatively indicate this might be the case. Obviously further study is necessary; one piece of research does not a conclusion make.
Advances in neurology are so exciting! We’re slowly acquiring the tools to test and study intangible phenomenon which is beyond awesome.