Faded Beauty and How Reading Influences Behavior

Have you been enjoying the first days of spring like I have? My own way to say good-bye to winter is to pick up dried leaves and flowers from last year. I love their faded look and texture when they are pale and brittle. Beautiful and melancholic at the same time.

The handkerchief linen has a similar feel. It’s old, faded and has yellowed over the years. It feels dry and delicate just like the flowers. Touching both has to be done with care as though not to break their beauty.
Totally unrelated, but too interesting not to comment on: yesterday I read a fascinating article in the NY Times “The Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy Paul. It’s about the latest scientific research regarding what happens in our heads as we read a novel.

“In a study led by the cognitive scientist Véronique Boulenger, of the Laboratory of Language Dynamics in France, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements. What’s more, this activity was concentrated in one part of the motor cortex when the movement described was arm-related and in another part when the movement concerned the leg.

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

Stories don’t only stimulate the brain, but also change the way we behave socially in real life:

“…. individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective….”

Haven’t we all (or those of us who like to read) suspected that reading was more than just a great past-time? I immediately went to the library to find myself a good novel.

Have you have been reading any great fiction lately?

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4 Responses to “Faded Beauty and How Reading Influences Behavior”

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  1. helen salo says:

    how interesting. I just recently read ” the language of flowers” (sorry don’t remember the author now) and everyone I’ve recommended it to sid it was wonderful, also.

  2. kathrin says:

    Just looked into your book recommendation and NPR said it was “catnip for book clubs”. I’ll look for it in our library, the excerpt I just read was beautiful.

  3. Your photographs are beautiful (but my brain is rather prosaically thinking that I ought to go and dead head my hydrangea tomorrow!). I always have a novel on the go – my favourite recent read was Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. A wonderful read, but he’s one of my favourite writers.

  4. monika says:

    I just read “Sommerbeben” that I found on my bookshelf, after it has spent years there un-read and was probably inherited from a German friend that emigrated to Australia. Also just finished reading “Her fearful symmetry” by Audrey Niffenegger (the author of “The Timetravelers Wife”). On my ipod mini I just completed “1Q84″.

    The physical reading is hard for me, as I tend to immerse myself so fully into my books that I dream about them – not good and conducive for sleeping well. The audio books I love when I work in the studio – they keep me company and help me focus on the work on hand. Love to have stories read to me – hmm, wonder if that has the same effect as reading myself.

    Love the pictures of the decayed flowers and the linen – just gorgeous!

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