I’ve always been somewhat embarrassed to say that I really don’t watch much television at all; not because it matters, really, other than the fact that both my brother and sister-in-law are executive producers in that industry. I guess I’ve just never wanted to come off like some holier-than-thou pinhead, but I really do prefer reading. Pinhead Alert!
It’s a weird sort-of guilt, but can certainly be chalked up to my regular Midwestern guy upbringing that basically states, “You’re not fancy. Don’t be a sissy. Shut up about yourself and fit in, lest your head be chopped off.” Or something like that.
But a new article in the New York Times entitled “Your Brain on Fiction” might just be the proof I needed to prove I’m not holier-than-thou or thee or anyone else. It states basically that recent neuroscience shows that reading fiction engages the brain much more actively than watching television. I’ve always known that but haven’t been able to explain it beyond that which I’ve said a million times: “Any time we are subject to both sound and vision at the same time through the same medium, the brain has nothing to do but sit passively and take it in.”
Reading, on the other hand, forces you to fill in the blanks – to take the descriptions and build the image in your head; it’s much more active, and therefore, engaging and interesting, at least to the likes of me. The article shows that the areas of the brain the, say, recognize movement, smell or texture fire up when reading words that effectively communicate actions, scents or tactile feelings. And, more interestingly, that does not happen with television.
So I am no sissy. I just need more stimulation. Nothing wrong with that, at least with entertainment. It makes me wonder, though, if avid readers of fiction are more apt to be addicts. I’ll leave it up to the neuroscientists to figure that out.