The Science of Writing and Reading

By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Onderwijsgek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a while since I’ve written any posts related to science on here. There are some really cool articles that have come out, specifically about books. (Hint: Books are good for your health, and can even improve your memory, according to Bustle.)

Reading and Your Brain

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have found that reading a novel can affect your brain for days afterwards. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia gave people sections of a novel described as a “page turner” to read each day, and then went through a fMRI scan each morning after. They found heightened connectivity in parts of the brain, which may mean that your favorite books could have lasting impacts and possibly actually change your life.

According to Bustle, “According to the fiction feeling hypothesis, narratives with emotional contents invite readers more to be empathic with the protagonists and thus engage the affective empathy network of the brain, the anterior insula and mid-cingulate cortex, than do stories with neutral contents.”

Life Hacker gives some tips on how to read a book in just one day. The gist is to mix it up between ebook, print book, and audiobook, read in intervals, take notes, and find a good spot to do your reading.

And on a related note, Test Tube shared an interesting article explaining why people go deaf when reading. I’ve noticed this a lot with myself, when I’m really into a book, I tend to lose track of everything else around me. According to the article, it’s called “inattentional deafness,” and it means “when our brain is immersed in an intense task, the time it takes the brain to convey information to our consciousness is delayed. This process is known as the P3 Response. The team found that our auditory and visual senses share a limited neural resource. This partially explains how we tend to “zone out” from time to time.”

Writing Good Books

The Telegraph reported on scientists who came up with an algorithm that analyzes books and predicts if they will become bestsellers. A team from Stony Brook University in New York used books from Project Gutenberg and found that their algorithm matched the success of the public domain books 84% of the time. Some insights: books with lots of conjunctions, nouns and verbs did well compared to books with more adverbs.

Teleread reported on Typedrummer, which makes drum sounds out of text. Every letter has a particular sound, and according to the article, “actual sentences yield more complex and actually attractive sounds.”

Content Sharing

The Next Web shared that combining neuroscience and psychology can help us create content that people actually want to share. Emotion often makes people want to share, so it’s important to know why people want to share and what kind of content is shareable. Examples include being entertaining, inspiring, or useful, expressing ourselves, or nurturing our relationships with close friends. In general, positive messages are more likely to be shared, as well as practical information.

Machine learning can help readers find the content/books they’re looking for, according to an article in Digital Book World. A company called “Intellogo is able to recognize ideas and literary concepts, such as the mood of a text or a style of writing, with the software’s algorithms interpreting excerpts from any variety of sources (ebooks, Internet articles, Wikipedia, etc.) and can then connect, predict and recommend content based on user criteria.”

This post was originally published on March 3, 2016.


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