Our Need To Read

 

Our Need To Read

Marshall Poe picks it apart:

Why don’t most people like to read? The answer is surprisingly simple: humans weren’t evolved to read. Note that we have no reading organs: our eyes and brains were made for watching, not for decoding tiny symbols on mulch sheets. To prepare our eyes and brains for reading, we must rewire them. This process takes years of hard work to accomplish, and some people never accomplish it at all.

Elizabeth Minkel recalls a 2007 New Yorker piece that tracked researchers’ work with newly literate villagers in remote places:

They “found that illiterates had a ‘graphic-functional’ way of thinking that seemed to vanish as they were schooled. In naming colors, for example, literate people said ‘dark blue’ or ‘light yellow,’ but illiterates used metaphorical names like ‘liver,’ ‘peach,’ ‘decayed teeth,’ and ‘cotton in bloom.'” Would a world without the written word be as poetic as that? Or merely more difficult to apprehend?

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