No time for a real post, but this story from NPR is some food for thought. A researcher who noticed that she could get so absorbed in a book that "the house could burn down" around her wondered whether the brain processed information differently with this kind of absorbed reading instead of casual reading (with Twitter, cell phone, internet, Facebook leaping into the reader's consciousness every few minutes). She teamed up with neuroscientists to test her hypothesis, and guess what she found?
"Everyone told me to expect these really, really minute and subtle effects," she said, "because everyone was going to be doing the same thing, right? Reading Jane Austen. And they were just going to be doing it in two different ways."
Phillips said she mainly expected to see differences in parts of the brain that regulate attention because that was the main difference between casual and focused reading.
But in a neuroscientific plot twist, Phillips said preliminary results showed otherwise: "What's been taking us by surprise in our early data analysis is how much the whole brain — global activations across a number of different regions — seems to be transforming and shifting between the pleasure and the close reading."
Phillips found that close reading activated unexpected areas: parts of the brain that are involved in movement and touch. It was as though readers were physically placing themselves within the story as they analyzed it.So the next time you hear about multitasking while reading being just the same as reading deeply, you can say, with authority, "No. No, it's not." Jane Austen will thank you for it.