How the brain listens to literature

How the brain listens to literature
When we listen to stories, we immerse ourselves into the situations described and empathize with the feelings of the characters. Only recently has it become possible to find out how exactly this process works in the brain. Roel Willems and Annabel Nijhof have now succeeded using an fMRI* scanner to measure how people listen to a literary story. 
Everybody immerses themselves in stories in their own way. However, due to technological limitations, how we comprehend literature has only previously been studied at a group level without looking at individual differences. Willems and Nijhof show in this study that people focus on different aspects of the story when listening to literature.

Audiobooks in the fMRI scanner
Participants listened to chapters of different audiobooks, for example Island Guests by Vonne van der Meer and Thaw by Rascha Peper. Roel Willems of the Donders Institute at Radboud University says, 'We found that there were strong indivi…

English is Easier to Spell Than You Think. (Really?)

Probably every writer of English struggles with spelling and word form.  There, their and they're is one nightmarish trap that so many writers fall prey to.

When you ponder the amazing history of our language, you'll realize that we struggle with an olio of Celtic, German, Scandinavian, Pig Latin, French, Hindi, Vietnamese, Arabic, Swahili, Amharic, Martian, Valley Girl, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Yiddish, vague and rare crossword and scrabble words, all tossed with a smattering of guttural grunts and squeaks, held loosely together with a Latin grammar that has absolutely nothing to do with the structure of English.  Thank God that clicks and pops are more or less out of vogue.
If you think I'm kidding, just watch this wonderful series on the History of English.  The origination of the word "shit" is especially illuminating. No wonder spelling is in the eye of the beholder.  Don't get me started on grammar.

Early on in my writing career I read something that ha…

Do Millionaires Migrate From High Tax to Low Tax States?

In a word, no.  In a study of financial osmosis, researchers at Stanford find that the wealthy are less likely to move than the general population, indicating that lowering taxes to attract the affluent is a losing proposition.  However those at the bottom of the economic ladder are far more likely to relocate, sort of economic Okies.

To a writer, these tidbits add to an overall understanding of why people do things, and understanding that can add to the richness of your prose.  Or poetry, too, I suppose.

Here's the report with a link, as always, to the full study if you're so inclined.
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Study dispels myth about millionaire migration in the US
"Our research indicates that 'millionaire taxes'  raise a lot of revenue and have very little downside."
The view that the rich are highly mobile has gained much political traction in recent years and has become a central argument in debates about whether there should be "millionaire taxes" on top-inc…

Personality: Where does it come from? How does it work?

This is the question at the core of fiction:  where does a character's personality come from and how does it work?  Sure, there are works where the characters are ill defined and show no growth over the course of the story.  Lots of violence, plenty of sex, and you can't remember a thing about it ten minutes later.  Annoyingly, films and book of this ilk sell revoltingly well.  Happily there are enough works around where a character gains definition over the course of their story and show growth.  (I can't watch or read works where the characters are as shallow as the writer.)

One of my personal favorite acts of fiction are the Lord Peter mysteries by Dorothy Sayers.  It is unusual but not unknown for characters in crime fiction to develop over the course of a story.  Lord Peter, however, starts as a caricature in the first book, the 1923 Whose Body developing into a complex, vulnerable man in 1937's Busman's Honeymoon.  Over these 13 works we see a somewhat vacuo…

In re: Valentine's Day: Love (& Fear) Are Whole-brain Activities

Happy Valentine's Day, aka, Ash Wednesday, the day we traditionally clean out the fire place after having burned the Yule Log and a few of Santa's Elves, if not the jolly old Elf himself.  In doing so, we honor a fourth century Christian martyr who was either beheaded, burned at the stake, crucified or simply ignored to death (depending on which version you believe) for having performed weddings against the express wishes of the Roman Emperor.  Sheesh, what a grouch.

So, as we experience another blatantly commercial holiday designed to impoverish us all and our descendants unto the Nth generation, here's a neat bit of info about love.

Enjoy.  Happy V.D.
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Love and fear are visible across the brain instead of being restricted to any brain region
In the field of affective neuroscience, rivalling theories debate whether emotional states can be regarded as an activity of only certain brain regions. According to a new doctoral dissertation at Aalto University, an emoti…

Narcissism linked to sexual assault

Narcissism linked to sexual assault perpetration in college Almost 20 percent of college men have committed some kind of sexual assault, and 4 percent have committed rape, according to a study published by University of Georgia researchers who were examining the link between different kinds of narcissism and the perpetration of sexual assaults.
The study found a strong connection between pathological narcissism and sexual assault perpetration through a survey of 234 male university students, mostly in their first and second years of college. Its findings related to perpetration rates were mostly consistent with previous studies, said the study's lead author Emily Mouilso, a clinical assistant professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences' psychology department.

The study found that men with vulnerable narcissistic traits were more likely to use alcohol or other date-rape drugs to incapacitate their victims, a finding that is especially concerning on a college campus, M…

How to spot aggressive people by the way they walk

Link between walk, aggression discovered
The way people walk can give clues to how aggressive they are, a new exploratory study has found. The work found that the exaggerated movement of both the upper and lower body indicated aggression.
The researchers from the Department of Psychology assessed the personalities of 29 participants, before using motion capture technology to record them walking on a treadmill at their natural speed. The study found that the exaggerated movement of both the upper and lower body indicated aggression.

Lead researcher Liam Satchell said: "When walking, the body naturally rotates a little; as an individual steps forward with their left foot, the left side of the pelvis will move forward with the leg, the left shoulder will move back and the right shoulder forward to maintain balance. An aggressive walk is one where this rotation is exaggerated."

The researchers asked participants to complete a questionnaire, which measured their levels of aggressi…