Yael: Hey Don, what are you reading? Don? Don!
Yael: I asked what book you're reading.
Don: Oh, sorry. I guess I was lost in the story.
Yael: That's OK. That's what a good story will do, right? In fact, there's a study that explains what's going on the brain when we get caught up in a story.
Don: Do tell.
Yael: Basically, according to the study, when you read a story that engages you, your brain creates detailed and vivid simulations of the details in the story.
Don: You mean that when I'm reading, my brain is activated as though I'm actually doing the things I'm reading about?
Yael: Or observing them, or imagining them. The point is that reading isn't a passive activity where the brain is just processing language. It's much more dynamic and active. So if you're reading a book about baseball, say, the brain reacts in ways similar to how it would if you were actually playing baseball, or watching a game, or imagining yourself hitting a ball, or whatever.
Don: Interesting. How was this studied?
Yael: That's interesting, too. The researchers studied readers' brains using an MRI scanner. But because the readers had to remain perfectly still, their heads were immobilized as they read the story one word at a time on a computer screen.
Don: That's hardly a typical reading experience.
Yael: True. But even reading stories in that strange, one-word-at-a-time way, the readers'brains were still activated to create mental simulations of the story.
Don: So what does this mean?
Yael: Maybe that being lost in a good book doesn't mean you're zoned out. It's more like your brain is tuned in.