Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TCT - Game of Thrones, Brain Movies, and Readaholism

Did you know that in the 19th century, reading novels was likened to having a drug habit?  

Kinda makes sense if you think about it.  It's addictive, especially when you're so engrossed that you lose track of time and surroundings, and to them that addiction was worrisome. Of course, being addicted to reading doesn't really come with the negative side effects associated with drug addiction. For instance, there's no strain on loved ones - unless you count them having to crane their necks over the edge of a book to catch a glimpse of you at the dining table as 'strain'...

Reading has always been a great source of enjoyment for me.  I've always preferred curling up with a book to watching a movie.  Lately, I've been reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire - an epic fantasy series.  I read the first book Game of Thrones last year, but picked up the second only recently, after having watched the HBO tv series based on the first book.

The television adaptation was *excellent*.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they really stuck to the book as much as possible and that most of the characters fit their roles perfectly.  Tyrion Lannister, kept me giggling; Daenerys Targaryen and Arya Stark were simply brilliant; and I even wanted to punch the clementine-faced whiny prat Prince Joffrey in the face!  Tyrion actually got to do just that in the second episode:

One of my favourite scenes, I must say!

Because the characters, scenes, and sets of the HBO series fit the story so well, I can picture the events of the second book much more vividly than I normally do while reading books - and my imagination is quite vivid, if I may say so myself. As a result, reading Clash of Kings is like watching a long  movie for me, minus the eye strain.  It's friggin amazing!

So, why is it that we can lose ourselves in books?

Neurological studies have shown that the brain processing required by books is more than what is required by other media like television, but that's actually why we are more likely to block out distractions while reading.  The countless number of times I've wanted to chuck popcorn and coffee at obnoxiously loud people at the theater forces me to agree.

It has also been found that we are more likely to lose ourselves in light fiction or narrative non-fiction books than other types, and that we tend to 'find ourselves' in the fictional characters we read about.  It's empathy on a whole different level, apparently.   However, no one really knows exactly how the brain processes reading and how we visualize what we read.

In the words of E. B. Huey:
To completely analyze what we do when we read would almost be the acme of a psychologist's achievements, for it would be to describe very many of the most intricate workings of the human mind.

I did find a couple of interesting articles on the subject but I'd like to learn more:

Books that look promising:
The Psychology of Reading by Keith Rayner, Alexander Pollatsek
Visualizing Psychology by Siri Carpenter, Karen Huffman

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