Volume 6 / Issue 1 SPRING 2020

4 6 S p i r i t ua l i t y S t u d i e s 6 - 1 S p r i n g 2 0 2 0 is not a novel discovery. In late 1990s, Susan A. Greenfield published a study in which she claimed that the quantity of neurons is not as important as the number of synaptic connections that are formed between them. The connections are formed through brain stimulation through various external stimuli that include reading and listening (Greenfield 1998, 122–123). It is not only the growing number of synaptic connections that is essential in order to acquire some information that can influence our actions. It is also the reinforcement of these connections and this is related to the frequency with which certain activity is performed (in our instance it is a reading of a story). This has a positive impact on the pro - cess of remembering but also on the formation of a desired habit, attitude, or way of thinking. In his bookThe Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton discusses reinforcement of social behavior. He refers to a study of Jeffrey Zacks (Zacks et al. 2009, 989–999). Zacks and his co-workers read stories to a group of volunteers while mon - itoring their brain activity using fMRI. They found out that goal changes were associated with increased activity in regions of the prefrontal cortex that is activated in situations that require a conscientious and empathic attitude. In other words, whenever we read a story, we engage. We mentally imagine every new situation, event or character that we encounter while reading a story or listening to it. We trigger our imagination that plays a crucial role in this process. In a fig - urative sense, reading books carves into our brain new neural connections that head towards the old cortical records altering the way in which we perceive the world. At the same time, we become more attentive and empathic towards the inner lives of others. However, this does not occur with every form of communication media. Reading books enables us to look at the world that surrounds us in a unique way that we simply cannot do with immersion in the fast-changing virtual world (Dutton 2018, 175–176). Printed texts facilitate the creation of a concrete cognitive or mental map of that text. Duchoňová (2015, 28–29) refers to numerous studies revealing that reading a hard copy acti - vates only a small part of our brain, which shows deep con - centration. The Web, on the other hand, scatters our attention. Reading from a piece of paper activates memory and visual cognition. In a digital world, our brain does not remain fo - cused, we get often distracted by other information. A certain British study, considering the degree of comprehension and remembering exhibited by readers when working with a hard copy or a digital text, showed that the students reading the material in digital form concentrated more on remembering than knowing. On the other hand, the students who were reading a hard copy of the material concentrated equally on remembering and knowing. The researchers suggested that the latter group of students learned the presented material faster and more accurately. This confirms the differences in cognitive processing and remembering of information acquired from a printed and a digital source. There seems to be a difference in reading printed text and reading on the Internet. Reading online seems to be superfi - cial, we tend to skim through the text and select information. Our brain is overwhelmed by the volume of information and cannot process the overload. Surely, reading online has its benefits, but only when we approach it with “slowness”. This plays a crucial role in reading. We acquire more knowledge and ideas from a slow reading ten pages than from twenty pages that we have read quickly. We live in times of rapid changes when speed reading has become a double-edged sword and might not be of any benefit after all. Reading is a bridge to thinking and as such it has become one of the es - sential competencies in human life (Haluzová 2015, 24–25). German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer presented even more radical take on the problem associated with a dramatic in - crease in the use of modern digital technology in his book Digitale Demenz [Digital Dementia]. He draws on researches that confirm that consumption of audio-visual media has twice the negative impact on language development of a small child in comparison to obvious positive effects of reading fairytales and stories. In other words, watching a sto - ry on TV or DVD is worse than listening to another person reading that story. Daily story reading has a positive effect on language development, whereas watching TV in early childhood has clearly detrimental effect on child’s cognitive abilities, especially when reading and listening to stories had been replaced by watching TV before the child reached the age of three. Decline in cognitive functions in children involved problems with concentration, reading ability, understanding spoken language and mathematical skills (Spitzer 2012, 143–145). Reading positively triggers our imagination and that strengthen the neural connections. Consequently, it reinforces the process of remembering, thus affecting our actions. The research showed that listening to stories affects our brain in a similar fashion. Watching films, however, has no such effect.