Internalized knowledge, imagination, analogical reasoning and inference. There are many important tasks that our brain performs during the reading. According to some experts, these are very important intellectual and affective processes that may be diminished by the new technological tools as well as by digital technologies. What effect does a smartphone have on our brain when we are immersed in reading? We talked about it with Dr. Marcella Mauro, psychologist and head of neuropsychology at the Centre of neuropsychology of learning of Humanitas Medical Care in via Domodossola in Milan.
Is the digital age changing our brains?
As is normal, the digital age has forced our mind to become a container where information arrives in ever greater numbers. On the other hand, the data and images have a much shorter life in our brains, carried away by the continuous and unstoppable flow to the new digital world. But it’s not just a question of quantity: reading texts through a screen is slowly changing our logical approach to what we learn, in the same way that reading has changed the way we approach reality at the time. “We don’t wander like society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we interrupt or diminish as we innovate,” warned MIT researcher Sherry Turkle. That’s why it’s important to ask ourselves if and how technology is changing the way we read.
The theory of the loss of “deep reading”
According to some scholars, the digital reading is making people lose the ability of the so-called deep reading. In other words, the ability to read carefully, entering into the depths of what you enjoy. According to Mark Edmundson, a scholar and teacher of English literature, this is demonstrated every day by the fact that the younger generations have stopped reading classics and novels of the 19th and 20th centuries because they are too long and too demanding. In Stavanger, Norway, the psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied the different methods used by a group of pupils to read the same text in two different ways. Mangen’s group proposed reading the novel Jenny, Mon Amour, delivering the text for Kindle in half class, and the other half the economic paper edition. The results showed that the students who read on paper were much better prepared than their colleagues who read the novel on screen, in particular much better was their ability to reconstruct the details and the plot in a chronological order. An exception to these conclusions, however, is represented by children who are suffering from learning distractions. Dyslexics and dysgraphics, for example, have greatly benefited from the use of tablets and devices with speech synthesis: these tools are in fact can provide a “crutch” to those who have problems maintaining attention and concentration and can be an excellent support for reading.