Think about the last time you sat quietly and read a good book. According to an online survey; as of April 2014 only about 14 per cent of the world population picked up a book every day. It is true that these people may not read an entire book every single day, but at the very least they read a few pages each day or evening. Psychologists would like to see that number climb much higher. They say there are just too many benefits non-readers are missing out on.
The power of reading
Researchers in the Netherlands conducted two reading experiments that showed people who were “emotionally transported” by fiction experienced higher levels of empathy. The more powerful the characters in the books, the more empathetic the reader becomes. Researchers say it is good to be “swept away” by characters.
It seems the medical community has discovered reading can impact the mind in many different ways. For example, it not only sparks empathy, it has an impact on blood pressure. Studies conducted at the University of Sussex Mindlab International in 2009 indicate that reading is more effective than music or taking a walk when it comes to relieving stress. It took only 6 minutes for people to relax once they started reading. Relaxation was measured through heart rate and the amount of muscle tension each person experienced. The doctors involved in the study say it doesn’t matter what type of book you read, if you are exploring someone else’s words or world it allows you to escape from your own worries and stresses.
According to a study out of Oxford University, reading is the only activity for teens outside of school that is linked to a higher chance at a professional career later in life. Researcher Mark Taylor, from the Department of Sociology, analyzed over 17 thousand questionnaire responses from girls who were born in 1970. The questionnaires included information about extra-curricular activities at age 16 and their careers at age 33. The girls who read books at 16 had a 39 percent probability of a professional or managerial job at 33, but only a 25 per cent chance if they had not been reading. None of the other activities, including sports, cooking or going to concerts had an effect on their careers.
One of the reasons readers may have a better chance in the job market is explained in a paper published in the May 17, 2013 online edition of the Creativity Research Journal. The paper outlines an experiment that tested the hypothesis that exposure to fictional short stories, as opposed to non-fictional essays, would reduce the need for cognitive closure. Cognitive closure is our desire to have firm answers to our questions. After reading, people’s need for cognitive closure was measured. People who read the short stories did experience a significant decrease in self-reported desire for cognitive closure. This effect turned out to be especially strong for those who were “habitual” readers. The findings suggest that reading fictional stories could lead to better processing of information, better retention of information and more creativity.
While being able to cultivate the mind for future employment is a good idea, reading is just simply good entertainment. Most avid readers will agree that reading is much like losing yourself in a movie; it allows you to escape into a different world- just for a little while…and who doesn’t need a change of scenery now-and then?