How Does Reading Affect Our Brain?

Books - How Do You Read Yours?

How Does Reading Affect Our Brain?

Lying on the grass reading

As I have a great love for reading, It got me thinking about how reading affects our brain. I have been looking into this and have found that there are at least 7 ways which includes having increased empathy to also feeling metaphors.

In 2006, a study revealed that people who are “reading” text on the internet tend to only read up to 20% of the content. It seems that they skim the content in an F-shape which means that they are only reading the start of each line and they then look for important words rather than reading it all.

It has apparently been shouted from the rooftops that reading is over as we have forgotten how to do it as well as saying that our ability to digest text is being ruined by the Tablet. It has also been said that all books will likely be made into packaging for the new iWatches. 

The Influences of Reading

Science does however still remain adamant and is pointing out lots of different ways in how reading can still have an influence on our lives as well as our brains, and there are large numbers such as stress reduction, memory and empathy and brain evolution, reading is a fairly powerful tool. 

We tend to take in extremely large amounts of text each day, but we are continuously finding out how much the way things are packaged can affect our understanding of it. It has been shown through studies that we seem to read and understand red text a lot slower as we get anxious, but when we are shown logos for fast food, it actually makes our reading speed faster. As everything from the font to how things are placed on a page has an affect on us, it also appears to not only be a one-way information transmittal from the page to the brain however, we are continually working out and movement in the way we react as well as what we absorb.

Seven Amazing Things About Reading and the Brain

Below is a list of 7 amazing things science have been able to figure out with regards to reading and the brain. We can be rest assured though that reading is still classed as a very simple act which it seems is also very calming.

1. Stress is reduced more by reading than listening to music.

In a study carried out by the University of Sussex in 2009, it was shown that by having just a half hour of devoted reading can reduce your stress levels better that numerous other traditional ways of relaxing such as listening to music or enjoying a cup of tea. Your stress levels can be reduced by almost 68 percent which can be somewhat significant and this shows that your library is a good place for your mental health.

It is thought by Scientists that the reasoning behind this is both partial physical force and partial escapism because when you have complete immersion in a book the body is able to relax more as it is less engrossed on all it’s tense muscles.

2. You do not read slower using paper as opposed to on a screen – you may however remember more.

In studies carried out prior to 1992, it appeared that books were on their way out and readers seemed to be taking in the text slower on an actual page as opposed to how they did on a screen. However, studies have been more varied and this is mostly because there are lots of different types of screens as well as having so much more text. Scientists however are not actually sure that this is the case though.

It is now thought that if you are reading on a tablet rather than a proper book that you may remember less of the story. This will be annoying for Kindle owners.

3. Our brains may have been evolved by reading.

Through her bestselling book Proust And The Squid, Dr. Maryanne Wolf believes in a theory that thousands of years ago when reading was discovered it urged our brains to develop and this allowed us to be able to embrace any information in different ways. Wolf has found that for her reading is one of the most crucial element in both intellectual history as well as human genetics, this also has a very large role in how we work, record, think and remember.

Although there is still debates about this theory, either way it has been pointed out by Stanislas Dehaene through Reading In The Brain about how totally bizarre it is that our brains simply existed firstly to help us survive being on an African Savannah and nowadays we are happy to understand Shakespeare.
4. Metaphors in books do actually make us physically react.

This is a fairly awesome one as a study carried out by Emory University has announced that apparently metaphors are in point of fact a lot more physical than what we think, especially the ones that are about texture. The MRI scans of people who heard the following statement twice. The first time they heard it was with metaphors with texture used (“She had a rough day”) and then the same statement again but this time with no metaphor (“She had a bad day”).

The results uncovered that whilst hearing the metaphor that uses texture, the part of our brain that gets activated every time we touch something lit up which shows that we’re certainly sensing the metaphors we are reading.

5. Our empathetic and ethical skills are improved by reading fiction.

It now appears that there is hard science that says by reading fiction it essentially compels us to be more empathethic. By immersing yourself in a good book you have the ability to broaden your outlook as you are able to see the world through the eyes of someone else such as a character in a book.

Being honest, the study which was once again done at Emery completely focused on the type of fiction which is clearly about characters from books like Anna Karenina to up-to-date modernists such as Virginia Woolf. After reading the results, it became clear that the subjects appeared more emotionally intelligent and empathetic meaning that they were able to “experience” the characters movements within their own movement areas of their brain.

6. By reading complex characters the brain can then be prompted to ‘write’ them.

Because the brain has a lot of ways to interpret as well as remember letter symbols, it is then able to develop a symbolic dialect which will help it. However, one of the most captivating ways in how it is able to cope occurs as and when reading anything that is on the whole complicated as well as being unusual like calligraphy or even Kanji. It therefore appears that the section of your brain that is associated with physically making text lights up because the brain is writing the letter like it is actually moving a writing implement and going over the symbols lines.

7. Our memory is boosted by Poetry.

Apparently something that is good for stimulating our brain and works in very much the same way as music is poetry which also links to the right side of the brain and is also where our emotions are regulated. This can also be known to lead us into a self-reflective and a memory-boosting condition and especially when we read poems we love that are also well-known.

There is a thing called the “poetry trance” and this is so named as poetry is known to light up the areas within the brain that also concern memory and when we are relaxing these will switch on.

My Conclusion

I enjoyed the research into this article and also typing it us as I found it an interesting topic to know how our brains are affected when we are reading. As much as I love listening to music I do love to relax and unwind while reading a book. I find it especially helps me at night to read before I go to sleep as you can then empty your mind of everyday things and get lost in that other world where you can let your imagination run wild.

I hope you have found this article interesting and have any questions or feedback on this article, please leave them in the comment section below or contact me at, and I will be more than happy to answer them.






8 Responses

  1. Michelle says:

    Wow!! Very interesting reading indeed. Your article has opened my eyes to a few pointers. Thanks so much for sharing, Cheryl.
    Keep up the good work and looking forward to reading more.

    • Chez says:

      You are very welcome Michelle and thanks very much for your comment. I am pleased to see that you found this interesting and I have to say that I enjoyed creating this post and also found it interesting when researching it and was amazed at some of the things the brain can do just with reading.

  2. Jair says:

    I LOVE articles like this, ones that have statistics and no matter the size or length of the article, you walk away learning something interesting. That study on the metaphors was crazy as was the “F skim pattern”. If I knew about that, I would have written my messages to my ex-wife like that lol. Thank you for the great read. I have been trying to read more as I have always shied away from them until I got my reading glasses, currently, I am reading Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, very inspiring book to make you think twice. I just got my next read last week as it was recommended by an associate of mine, How to win friends & influence people by Dale Carnegie. What are you reading right now & why?

    • Chez says:

      Hi Jair, thank you very much for your comment and I am pleased that you found this post interesting and you felt that you learned something from it. Would that have been to keep her then lol. I absolutely love reading and would think nothing of spending hours in a book shop looking for books that I want to read. I used to read things like Danielle Steel and all your romance and then I heard about a book called I Let You Go by a girl called Claire Mackintosh and I have to say it was one of the best books I have read in a long time. At the moment I am reading a book named the Trophy Child and what I have read so far has been good. I tend to read the back of a book and if I like the look of a story I will buy the book. Unfortunately though I have to say that I have never read any of the kind of books that you are reading. Plenty time yet though. Enjoy your books and let me know what you thought of them. I could always add them to my long list of what I want to read.

  3. Sylvia Harris says:

    hello Cheryl, reading this article gave me to reflect. I have not read a book in 3 months. that is so unlike me, but I have been doing research on the web and gotten away from something that gives me such pleasure. Thank you for reminding me.

    • Chez says:

      Hi Sylvia, I am pleased then to be your reminder to go and pick up that book again and have a good read. If by any chance you are looking for a good book then can I give you a couple of good authors if you haven’t read any of their books already. Dorothy Koomson, I have just finished her book named When I was Invisible and Claire MacIntosh who has an amazing book called I Let You Go which is full of twists and turns. Let me know what book you decide to read or pick up again and continue reading.

  4. Holly says:

    Cheryl, I truly enjoyed this article 🙂 Thank you for writing it!

    I am a firm believer in reading (and writing). There is no doubt in my mind that it does affect our stress levels on a grand scale.

    I shared this article on Pinterest. Wishing you the very best of success now & in the future!

    • Chez says:

      Hi Holly, thank you very much for your comment and also for sharing this article on Pinterest. I am very grateful to you for that.

      I really found this an interesting subject to research and was surprised at some of the things I discovered. Being an avid book lover, I wondered how much affect reading had on our brains and if it was good or bad. That was my reasoning for finding out and sharing it in this post so that people like yourself can see what happens to our brains when we are reading.

      I certainly agree that getting lost in a good book can definitely reduce our stress levels and help us to relax.

      Thanks again for your comment Holly.

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