Jessica Stillman on the neuroscience of what we’re doing to ourselves in the mobile device revolution.
Getting lost in a book does incredible things to your brain. Not only does reading make you smarter, less lonely, and just plain happier, but following along with the characters in a great story actually lights up brain circuits associated with whatever the characters are experiencing, giving you one of the world’s greatest empathy workouts.
Unfortunately, I read fewer books these days and spend more time glued to a screen. What impact does that change have on the brain? Harvard trained neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf:
When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own… The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all… It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information. It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.
That might explain a few trends in politics.