“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.” – Voltaire
The medium of comprehension is irrelevant; the content matters. You are always reading, whether it is a celebrity gossip or an article on political tension brewing in your country.
New Research on the Affects of Reading
Reading is a part of learning, but what kind of effect does reading novels (particularly fiction) have on you?
Today, we will evaluate whether or not reading fiction affects your mood.
The answer lies in (as it is the case with almost everything these days) science, to be precise, neuroscience– the scientific study of our nervous system. As reported by The Huffington Post, Scientists conducted an examination to investigate the effects of reading on our brain, and the results were spectacular. They noticed that our brain involuntarily forms mental images when we read a description of an object or a person. Additionally, it jogs our physical senses.
Reading the words such as ‘running’ or ‘jumping’ activates the motor cortex– part of the brain that is involved in the muscular activity; this can be the reason why some people feel tensed or exhausted when reading a book, or a certain event (such as a climax).
In an article on reading and empathy, The Guardian notes that research finds that novels make us more empathetic. Two researchers, Maja Djikic and Keith Oatley, from the University of Toronto, conducted research to find how reading fiction can change our personality. One of the effects of reading fiction, they discovered, was the ability to empathize with people; regarding this, they said:
“People who read more fiction are also better at reading other people’s emotions. It’s not that empathic people read more, but that reading promotes empathy.”
How does this relate to your mood? When you feel empathy towards someone, emotions rush out. Their experiences become yours because you can relate to them and these experiences can be happy or sad. In empathy, you merely don’t understand what a person is feeling, but you are experiencing those feelings.
As for fiction, a writer generates empathy for its characters by making them relatable. You share the adventures of your favorite characters. You laugh, cry, jump with exuberance, or feel bewildered by them. This is one of the reasons why Harry Potter is such a success. You will find at least one relatable character, and it is towards that character you will feel the most empathy. Almost all novels try to toy with empathy to heighten the effect of events and push character development.
Mood’s Effect on Reading Comprehension
Your mood can also affect your reading comprehension. In a study, conducted by Catherine M. Bohn-Gettler of Wichita State University and David N. Rapp of Northwestern University, 100 undergrad students were divided into three groups: sad, neutral, and happy. They were played clips from movies that represented the assigned emotions. After the clip, they were instructed to read a text and perform some memory exercises related to it.
The results were impressive. The students in the neutral group engaged in less paraphrasing and exhibited less coherent processing techniques; their ability to recall the text was weak. Meanwhile, the students from the sad and happy group were able to comprehend more data, and their memory recollection was superior than those of the neutral group.
This study shows how our mood can affect our comprehension ability and post-reading memory- how much you can remember what you read. Also, it explains why you can recall the ending of a novel perfectly, compared to some mundane events in-between, it is because you either feel joy or sorrow by the end of a story.
Reading is a fascinating activity. The average reader might not know about the benefits of reading; it’s like an extra reward for craving knowledge and may your thirst for knowledge never die.
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” – William Styron