Objects in mirror are larger than they appear

Yes, yes, everyone in BookBlogLand has Chicken-Littled about yet another study proving that Americans are illiterate savages who don't read. American males, especially, can't read "left," "right" or "phasers on stun" without moving their lips, so they hardly bother with anything more complicated than Where's Waldo? or the sports section's baseball stats. But over at NPR, Eric Weiner tries to find out why women, traditionally, have been the mainstay of the fiction audience -- so much so, we might as well consider Hemingway "chick lit":

"Another theory focuses on 'mirror neurons.' Located behind the eyebrows, these neurons are activated both when we initiate actions and when we watch those same actions in others. Mirror neurons explain why we recoil when seeing others in pain, or salivate when we see other people eating a gourmet meal. Neuroscientists believe that mirror neurons hold the biological key to empathy.

The research is still in its early stages, but some studies have found that women have more sensitive mirror neurons than men. That might explain why women are drawn to works of fiction, which by definition require the reader to empathize with characters."

by the by, the book/daddy household, as in so many things, is the exception: book/daddy reads tons, especially fiction; the missus reads, mostly before falling asleep, but almost all of it magazine journalism and non-fiction.

And I'm the journalist. Go figure.

September 5, 2007 3:19 PM | | Comments (3)



Did it break down any of those statistics, particularly with regards to fiction vs. non-fiction? I ask this because I generally ignore fiction. The females in my family have all read "Harry Potter". The males, instead, have read "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and "Lies My Teacher Told Me".

As much as book/daddy heartily sympathizes with the NEA and supports its necessary, well-intentioned efforts to encourage reading, the 2004 "Reading at Risk" survey it used to bellow warnings about our declining desire to read anything much more character-rich than the DVD player's instruction manual was a bit of a joke and was wildly misused, misquoted, mis-cited. All the survey really indicated was the low numbers of people who read "serious literary fiction." An understandable concern, surely. But if you look through the stats, it turns out the NEA discounted all non-fiction reading -- which would mean any serious histories or biographies, political analysis, essay collections, literary criticism and -- one would assume -- hyped-up NEA surveys.

I thought the whole furor over the 1-in-4 people doesn't read thing was a bit much. For one, I read somewhere that this is actually an improvement over past survey results, so it seems that's a GOOD thing. For another, when I think about how many people are still alive who likely grew up in locations where they didn't have ready access to a bookstore or library, and possibly couldn't afford books anyway, I'm hardly surprised those people might not have the reading habit.


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