Archive for the 'Research' Category

Can you ever read too many novels?

A while ago I wrote a blog post about research published in the May Scientific American touting the therapeutic value of writing. Now, research published in the June issue of New Scientist says longtime readers are more empathetic and have better social skills than their less well-read peers.

Interesting. Describing someone as being well-read connotes a certain worldliness that may well encompass social graces that are above average. It’s curious that even though film and television have been around so long, we never refer to people as being well-viewed. Despite its immediacy, film still can’t show us the hearts, minds and souls of others as effectively as fiction.

On the other hand, why do so many bookworms sometimes seem nerdy and maladjusted? I guess this particular research assumed a broad reading base and not an exclusive diet of SF or fantasy.

Here is a link to an interview with one of the researchers; the article on the New Scientist site is not available for free. For other interesting psychological research on reading and writing, check out the researchers’ blog On Fiction.

Photo credit: Moriza, Creative Commons

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Eat veggies, get exercise, write blog…

…or write novel, or diary, or grocery list. Evidence mounts for the therapeutic value of putting thoughts into words, sentences and finally onto a page of some kind, whether it’s papyrus or html. An article in the May Scientific American reports on the health benefits of writing as a possible reason for the boom in blogging.

Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of The Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

Haven’t the behaviourists long recognized the positive impact of this sort of thing, what with all the different kinds of art therapy? But perhaps soon the neuroscientists will pinpoint exactly why and how it works.

Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before, during and after writing, notes James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. But Pennebaker and others remain skeptical about the value of such images because they are hard to duplicate and quantify.

Writing lights up the brain? What a beautiful image. Right now I’m bashing this out pretty fast, so I’ve probably only generated some kind of generic strobe. But later? When I get back to writing that novel?