Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reading as a Search for Stimuli

Sustaining interest is a challenge when it comes to reading. For voracious readers they do not appear to have a problem with reading books. For someone trying to develop reading habit, it seems to be a matter of stamina just like in the case of running in a marathon. If we have any chance of addressing the problem in hand, it would be by questioning the assumption that stamina is needed to sustain interest and attention while reading a book. The reading habit, so to say is taken for granted by avid readers not because of their ability to concentrate or sustain interest, but by the book they are reading and the pleasure stimulated thereof. There are two indications here. One is the power of the narrative and subject matter of the book. The other is the reader's attitude. Although the former depends entirely on the book, people tend to associate reading as a general activity and assume that a reader has to read any book to meet the criteria for having developed reading habit. This thwarts the activity of reading. The latter is self-imposed by the reader because it is a matter of attitude. 

The reader concerned hopes to gain from the book and would like to be seen reading by other individuals around. This is a matter of impressing others so that they would then grant that this person has developed reading habit. This too thwarts the activity. In the case of the generic assumption made by people, reading for pleasure is confused with reading for academic purposes. In the case of the flaw in the reader's attitude, one must remember that an avid reader reads for its own sake. The person does not read to impress others; he does not read with the expectation of acquiring erudition but just for the connections that he is able to make with the text in hand. The flaws in assumptions curb 'dopamine secretion' in the brain and you are left with almost no motivation. You then think that you do not have enough concentration when in fact it is your approach which needs to be reviewed. Rather, looking at reading as a creative activity automatically stimulates 'dopamine secretion' and you find yourself immersed in the activity of reading without even noticing it. Reading then is not a conscious habit but a stimulus for you to respond to. The moment you start reacting to the text of the book, you find yourself reading without even broaching the irrelevant subject of stamina. Reading is therefore not a repetitive habit but a search for stimuli.


Pkayen said...

I think a search for stimuli implies that the person is bored. Reading is one way of alleviating that. We read to be informed or entertained or stimulated intellectually. We can get these from other means too. But a book involves our imagination and hence our creative faculty more than, say a movie.

Unknown said...

What you say is quite true. However, to view reading as a habit may be an impediment. It becomes an artificial activity and is motivated by extraneous factors without the reader's knowledge. The moment reading is introduced as a creative activity where the reader can pick and choose to read what is interesting then sustaining it would not be a problem.