9 Science-Backed Ways Reading Makes Your Smarter (Infographic)

Avatar by Brendan Brown | March 30, 2024, 11:00 am

Do you remember when you first learned to string letters together to read words on a page?

Reading is a skill that keeps on giving. It helps you move about the world with greater ease. The ability to read bestows upon the reader not only necessary life skills and hours of literary enjoyment, but also a greater intellectual ability and capacity for brain building.

When you read, you stimulate areas in your brain responsible for empathy, emotion, decision-making, and autobiographical memory. Engagement with your brain keeps you sharp, helping to reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Therefore, mental stimulation throughout life will help prevent mental aging. In fact, reading can also help you live longer. People who read books tend to have a greater imagination, more knowledge, and a greater vocabulary.

Theory of mind is the ability to understand the mental states of others. Empathy is a product of theory of mind. There is research showing that reading picking up a book of literary fiction can boost your theory of mind, and therefore, your empathy.

Would you like to become smarter, more interesting, and have greater empathy? Read on!

(If you want to get your creative juices flowing, check out our epic review of Masterclass here).

reading makes you smarter infographicTime and again, research has shown that reading ‘rewires’ our brains, and makes us more intelligent and healthy.

In fact, reading is one habit that allows us to grow and develop – it makes us sharper, more confident and overall, shapes us into who we are.

It is interesting to know that it also helps in training those areas of our brain that are responsible for emotion, empathy, long-term memory and decision-making – after all, when we read, we gain knowledge and learn new things.

Here are some science-backed ways that reading makes us brighter and enhances our intelligence:

Better Comprehension Of Our Environment

Reading evolves our theory of mind; essentially a way of thinking and understanding about your own mental state as well as the mindset of others.

Plus, this also helps people become more aware of their surroundings – how all individuals are unique, and why their opinions and belief-systems should be respected.

Helps You Understand And Relate With Other People

Consider this: when a reader is invested in a novel, they develop a strong emotional connection with the characters. The reader wants the underdogs to triumph and feels sad if they don’t. This is because when you are reading, you are subconsciously walking in the characters’ shoes and you feel empathy for them.

Didn’t you feel sad when you read the part where Olive Twist said, “please sir I want some more” when he was asking for more food?

A study was conducted with two subject groups – those who read fiction and those who read true stories.

Both groups were asked to guess what people were feeling with just a picture of their eyes – and people who read fictional novels scored higher and proved to have more empathy compared to the other group.

There Are No Limits To Your Imagination

A good book has the ability to make the reader vividly picture everything by triggering their Hippocampus which is responsible for learning and memory. In fact, even three word descriptive phrases like ‘orange striped pencil’ are enough to stimulate our imagination.

Reading Helps You Make Better Emotional And Rational Decisions

It is universally proven that stories activate areas in our brain that are responsible for strengthening our memory and emotions.

As per a study from Human Brain Mapping, reading helps activate the following areas in our brain:

Medial Prefrontal Cortex

This part of our brain is involved in making us behave as per social protocols. It helps make better decisions and allows us to differentiate the bad from the good.

Lateral Temporal Cortex

This part of the temporal lobe is associated with recalling things from one’s visual memory and associating it with a given scenario. When activated, this plays the role of object recognition.

Hippocampal Formation

When activated, this helps process information from short term memory to long term memory.

Posterior Cingulate Cortex

Reading helps improve our episodic memory recall – memories that you recall from the past such as your first day at school, the day you got married, etc.

Inferior Parietal Lobe

This part helps us understand our emotions and guides our reactions in different situations.  For instance, feeling pleased after reading a book where the girl lived happily ever after.

Poetry And Music Helps In Reflecting On Past Occurrences

Famous pieces written by Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Dickinson were seen to activate those parts of the brain that help recall past events, i.e. our autobiographical memory.

Poetry tends to make us feel a number of emotions; it narrates a powerful message with only a few words, and readers try to understand the message and relate it to their own life.

Similarly, listening to songs also stimulates the left side of the brain which is responsible for self-realization and self-reflection. For example, listening to an emotional song would make you recall all the hardships you have faced.

Reading A Novel Is Like Cardio For Your Mind

Like a day at the gym builds your body, a novel builds your mind – but the best part is that the process continues even after the book has been finished.

A study conducted at Emory University using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging found that our brain is capable of retaining an activity for at least five days.

Another way to sharpen the mind is online education. Check out our comprehensive review of Coursera here.

Improved Vocabulary And Better Verbal Skills

The more you read, the more your knowledge, intelligence and capacity to understand things increases. A person who reads regularly comes across many books written by various authors – in different tone and styles.

So, when you read a lot, you come across new words and phrases – you look up the meaning for the ones you cannot understand. This enhances your vocabulary which in-turn improves your verbal and reading skills.

(You also become a better student, which is handy when you are writing a thesis or a dissertation).

Retain Mental Capacity Through The Aging Process

As we grow older, our health starts deteriorating – this means that we cannot function as we used to and our mind does not operate in the same capacity.

Well, the effects of aging on the mind are much less severe for regular readers – being exposed to different social constructs, philosophies, images, ideas and metaphors keep the brain active.

By reading on a daily or weekly basis, your brain is trained to easily understand written sentences – this capability stays with you even after you grow old.

To Sum Up

Overall, reading does not only make us smarter and more intelligent, but it also has a host of other benefits that have been proven by various studies.

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