Could Skimming Our Screens Cost Us?


Could Skimming Our Screens Cost Us?

September 20, 2018

An article posted by The Guardian sheds light on some of the negative, unforeseen ways speed-reading our news feeds and emails may be rigging the way we also process a varitey of other things, like legal contracts or emotions. Because, unaware to many of us, the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain's ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing. These changes are everywhere, from the toddler who chews on her ipad to the grown adult flipping through social media on her ride to work.

As the article tells us, "the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago." In other words, when we began to read, our brains changed for the better. We became deeper, more thoughtful creatures who are able to internalize knowledge, reason, and even take the perspective of someone else. But the reading circuit was not given to us through out genetics, it needs the right environment in order to develop. As human beings, we adapt to our environment's requirements, and so if our reading is primarily fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large amounts of information, so will be our reading circuits.

Even skimming our print books, which is now trending due to our cognitive impatience, is negatively affecting the traits we prize most in humanity. "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 article explains.

It seems a decline in deep reading fosters a decline in both comprehension and the growth of empathy. So, our challenge to readers is to find a good, long book and just loose yourself in it for an afternoon. Your brain (and heart) may thank you for it later.

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