Monday, July 06, 2009

Readers Build Vivid Mental Simulations Of Narrative Situations

So I had a simulation running in my head Sunday night, when I stayed up until 2am reading the excellent Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, a very nice sci-fi dystopia for pre-teens, but works well as light entertainment for adults too. Elliot liked all the fighting, but I thought the emotional complexity of the main character was nicely drawn.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 5, 2009) — A new brain-imaging study is shedding light on what it means to "get lost" in a good book — suggesting that readers create vivid mental simulations of the sounds, sights, tastes and movements described in a textual narrative while simultaneously activating brain regions used to process similar experiences in real life.

Nicole Speer, lead author of this study, says findings demonstrate that reading is by no means a passive exercise. Rather, readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative. Details about actions and sensation are captured from the text and integrated with personal knowledge from past experiences. These data are then run through mental simulations using brain regions that closely mirror those involved when people perform, imagine, or observe similar real-world activities.


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