2020 is the year I decided to cut back on empty brain calories. That’s right, I swore off the mindless junk from social media. Because we are all likely to conduct more and more doomscrolling as the election nears and 2020 continues its infamy, I urge you to stop ingesting digital junk, and start reading a book.
To say that this has been a stressful year is a gross understatement. Much has been written about how ill-prepared we were to confront the pandemic and cope with the change and stress it has brought to our lives. Many of us are settling into our eighth month of quarantine even as our social and political worlds change. I believe our focus in navigating the pandemic may have caused us to miss an opportunity to wrest control back over our mental health.
There has been a lot of discussion about how technology—for all its benefits including keeping us connected amid a time of social distancing—played its part in contributing to our confusion with cognitive overload and misinformation. Starved for time and with limited mental energy, we are endlessly scrolling, constantly searching for ways to fill the micro-moments in our busy lives or distract ourselves from things unfolding outside our doors. Keep reading Padmasree Warrior’s article over at Fortune.
Reading fiction and reading minds: the role of simulation in the default network (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience):
- Abstract: Research in psychology has suggested that reading fiction can improve individuals’ social-cognitive abilities. Findings from neuroscience show that reading and social cognition both recruit the default network, a network which is known to support our capacity to simulate hypothetical scenes, spaces and mental states. The current research tests the hypothesis that fiction reading enhances social cognition because it serves to exercise the default subnetwork involved in theory of mind. While undergoing functional neuroimaging, participants read literary passages that differed along two dimensions: (i) vivid vs abstract and (ii) social vs non-social. Analyses revealed distinct subnetworks of the default network respond to the two dimensions of interest: the medial temporal lobe subnetwork responded preferentially to vivid passages, with or without social content; the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) subnetwork responded preferentially to passages with social and abstract content. Analyses also demonstrated that participants who read fiction most often also showed the strongest social cognition performance. Finally, mediation analysis showed that activity in the dmPFC subnetwork in response to the social content mediated this relation, suggesting that the simulation of social content in fiction plays a role in fiction’s ability to enhance readers’ social cognition.