Reading Fiction VS Watching TV: Is There A Difference In Brain Activity?

One would assume that consuming media triggers a particular part of our brains, no matter the type, in some way.

We use our eyes to watch and read, so that’s one similarity. The use of hearing is one significant difference between watching and reading, so maybe there’s more brain activity involved in watching TV. But reading requires one to use their imagination to picture what they’re reading in their brains, so would that be a heavier load for our brains?

PHOTO: Unsplash/Pinho .

Luckily, one curious individual posted in the Explain Like I’m Five Subreddit about this interesting question.

Does reading fiction activate different parts of the brain than watching TV or scrolling through social media?

Neuroscience can be daunting sometimes, and most studies use academic language that not everyone can understand immediately. Posting this type of question on this Subreddit is perfect (for anyone who’s curious about anything really), and people will generally use Layman’s terms in the replies for everyone to understand.

Well, as it turns out, reading does require more brain power than watching media!

“When we read, our brains have to imagine and be creative. We visualize scenes, layouts of rooms, what characters look and sound like, etc. Everything has to be imagined from scratch based off the author’s descriptions. It’s also useful for keeping elderly minds sharp. Excellent for young learning minds too, especially learning new words,” said the top comment.

Comparing reading fiction to watching videos or scrolling through social media reminds us that the latter activities don’t really encourage us to visualize because it’s all already provided to us.

by u/DuchessofSomar from discussion ELI5: Does reading fiction activate different parts of the brain than watching TV or scrolling through social media?
in explainlikeimfive

The reply perfectly answered OP’s question by saying that videos and social media are like a form of passive intake of information, and it requires less brain concentration and processing.

“When reading, you have to focus on the book and only the book, or you can’t process what’s happening.”

This doesn’t mean that watching videos or scrolling your social media feed is inferior to reading. Some people just absorb more information through visual media or have a hard time concentrating on a book, and that’s totally fine!

PHOTO: Pixabay/Marie

This is simply a question that I found interesting because there are days when I binge-read fiction, losing sleep over it sometimes, and have a blast creating a whole new universe in my brain for the characters I’m reading about. But then there are days when I can only read through a few paragraphs and then I’m done, so I’ll go back to streaming shows or go to Youtube and catch up on my subscriptions, because that’s where my brain is at.

Another Redditor answered that the experience of reading or watching media is based on an individual’s brain and not on external material. Perhaps the brain activity involved in both actions can’t be compared after all? I’ll just wait for a scientific study on this one, folks.

What about you? Do you favor reading over watching?

Check out the original post down below:

ELI5: Does reading fiction activate different parts of the brain than watching TV or scrolling through social media?
by u/5ClearUrinations in explainlikeimfive

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