But I am.
Cognition and its workings are a bit of a hobby for me. When I nosed around for some science of reading stuff, I found an enlightening (pun intended) article.
Let me start by saying that my new goal as a fiction writer is to light up brains. That's what good fiction does according to "Your Brain on Fiction" by Annie Murphy Paul in the NY Times. The fMRI machine is giving us a glimpse of how the brain reacts to all of the old chestnuts of writing we've been practicing.
For instance, if someone laying in a fMRI machine reads a cliche, the result in the brain is absolutely nothing. No lights. No rush of blood. Darkness. But if the person reads a metaphor, like "the singer had a velvet voice," the part of the brain that processes texture/touch lights up.
And those strong (specific) nouns and vivid verbs we've been harping on lately, they light up the visual cortex by creating a picture for the reader to "see."
Even nouns associated with smell, like "perfume," "coffee," and "popcorn" turn the lights on in the olfactory part of the brain. This is wild, and yet, so understandable for those of us who read voraciously. (I hankered for pork ribs while reading Gap Creek.)
"The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated."
And here's why:
"Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings...that individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective."
For me, this means word choice does matter, that exquisitely crafted characters and stories are worth the time I invest, and that we have scientific proof of what we've known all along: Storytellers play an incredibly important role in the preservation, enhancement, and healing of societies.
How does this information change the way you think about your craft?