We all know that reading has a huge number of health benefits, is a crucial part of our education, and is a great tool for self-development, but does reading make you smarter or does reading increase IQ?
Well, that’s a different story, and finding the answer to this question has always been quite a challenge.
First things first, let’s make the distinction between being smart and being intelligent as clear as possible.
Being smart is an acquired aptitude, meaning that we are not born smart, we become smart as we learn new things and acquire new information throughout our lives. How much information we gather and how we apply that information in our day-to-day lives define how smart we are.
Being intelligent on the other hand is an innate quality and is a natural trait that is unique to each person depending on their particular DNA. How we process new information, how quickly we learn new things, and our ability to find solutions in certain new situations defines our level of intelligence.
Now that this distinction is clear, let’s have a closer look at the effects reading has on our smartness and intelligence.
Does Reading Make You Smarter?
Since reading is a way of getting information from written text and smartness is a measure of how much information we gather throughout our lives, the obvious answer is yes. Reading does make you smarter.
The more you read, the more information you acquire, and therefore the smarter you get. Unfortunately, how smart we actually are cannot be measured. While our intelligence can be easily measured through an IQ test and expressed with a number, our smartness is a much more complex personal trait.
Books are amazing sources of information. Whether you’re reading a technical book that teaches a particular skill or you’re simply reading novels to pass the time, you still gather the information that is added to your overall knowledge. In certain ways, learning a particular skill or the details of a historical event and simply reading fiction for fun, have an influence on how smart you are.
Does Reading Increase IQ?
As I mentioned earlier, the concept of IQ scores, which actually stands for “intelligence quotient”, is a way of measuring one’s level of intelligence.
While a clear correlation between one’s IQ score and the amount of reading done by that particular individual hasn’t been found and documented, it is still worth taking into account that there are several types of intelligence and reading does have an influence on some of them to a certain extent.
Fluid intelligence is defined as one’s ability to reason, make connections, find solutions to solve problems, and understand abstract concepts. While this is more of an innate quality, the influence of reading on this type of intelligence cannot be completely dismissed. This quality may be built into our DNA, but reading is an essential building block in our education and plays a crucial role in our development.
The imaginative nature of novels is what makes them a great tool for improving fluid intelligence. You expose yourself to a different perception of time and space while reading, you understand not only what characters do but also how they think and interact with other characters in the story, thus improving the way you understand abstract, dynamic concepts.
Crystallized intelligence is the sum of our overall knowledge. This includes our vocabulary and all the skills acquired throughout our lives. Sounds pretty similar to what the definition of being smart is, right?
We must therefore conclude that reading has a major influence on our crystallized intelligence, considering how much of our general knowledge is acquired through reading.
Emotional intelligence is a concept that became popular back in 1995 thanks to Daniel Goleman’s best-seller “Emotional Intelligence” and is defined as one’s ability to perceive, identify, understand, and control emotions in themselves or others.
Despite being a rather new and complex concept and the fact that this type of intelligence cannot be measured like our IQs, studies have shown a clear correlation between reading and emotional intelligence. Those who read, especially from a young age, find it easier to understand their own emotions and those of others, since they have been exposed to different stories and experiences through the characters of the books they read.
So, does reading increase intelligence? To some extent, yes. While it won’t change any personal traits that are hard-coded in your DNA, it can help develop certain types of intelligence which will help you just as much in your day-to-day life.
How Does Reading Make You Smarter?
Now that we’ve established the premise that reading does indeed make us smarter and also plays a role in our intelligence to a certain extent, it’s time to better understand how this happens. There are a couple of key points worth taking into consideration, and the most important ones are detailed below.
1. Reading Helps Improve Theory of Mind
Theory of mind is quite an abstract concept, but to keep it simple, it can be viewed as our ability to attribute emotions, beliefs, and desires to other people, to see them as mental beings and understanding or even predicting their actions based on the identified emotions, beliefs, and desires.
Also referred to as “intuitive psychology”, the theory of mind can be greatly influenced by the number of books we read, especially in our childhood while our mind and personality are in full development.
By exposing a child’s mind to different stories, and fictional characters with emotions that influence their actions throughout the novels, it gains the ability to apply the gathered information in real-life situations as well.
2. Reading Sharpens Your Memory
While reading is a great way of gathering information and learning new things and skills, it also plays a major role in how your memory works. Since comprehension and actually remembering information are considered vital in establishing how smart a person is, a good memory is understandably a big player in the equation.
Your mental ability to memorize things can be trained, just like a muscle, through exercise. And one of the most efficient and healthy ways to train your brain into memorizing information more easily is reading.
3. Reading Improves Decision-Making
Studies have shown that reading (especially fiction), reduces our need for certainty and closure, which in turn allows us to keep an open mind. Having an open mind is an essential trait for a decision-maker.
As I mentioned earlier, part of being smart involves our ability to make decisions or find solutions to problems based on our past experiences and the information we gathered up until that point in time.
Therefore, improving your decision-making plays a big role in how smart you are and reading can greatly help you achieve new highs in this aspect.
4. Reading Allows Better Self-Reflection
Being smart also implies a certain level of knowledge about yourself as a person and entity. The way you position yourself in rapport with others, how you see yourself, and how well you understand the way you act and why are part of your emotional intelligence.
As I already mentioned above, reading can help improve your emotional intelligence, which in turn will allow you to have a better idea about who you are and how you feel.
Self-reflection is a very important element in your personal development because that is how you know who you are and who you want to become.
5. Reading Improves Vocabulary
Our vocabulary, which is a key component of our crystallized intelligence plays an essential role in our existence. It allows us to communicate better, find more efficient ways of expressing ourselves and can tell a lot about ourselves.
As shown by researchers in different studies, reading is a great tool for improving vocabulary, especially in children and teenagers. And it makes a lot of sense. By exposing yourself (or your child for that matter) to written words from novels or stories, it is inevitable not to find words you haven’t heard or used before. Understanding their meaning from context or from a dictionary and remembering them will add them to your vocabulary, enriching it.
6. Reading Improves Comprehension of the Environment and Real-Life Events
There’s an old anecdote that applies perfectly to this point.
While swimming, a dolphin meets a group of smaller fish and says:
– Hello, the water is quite nice today, right?
The other fish look at each other confused and one of them asks the others:
– Does anyone know what he’s saying? What does he mean by “water”?
This shows the difference between a smart being and one that doesn’t understand the environment they’re in. While it doesn’t apply to the same extent to humans, the sentiment is similar.
Books will help you better understand your place in the world, what you represent, how your environment influences you, and how you interact with others. By gathering knowledge from books throughout your life, you become more present and mentally involved in your existence and your own life events.
7. Reading Helps Improve How You Relate to Other People
Also somehow related to emotional intelligence, but not quite, is the way you relate to other people. This, of course, doesn’t just mean how well you understand the feelings of those around you, but also how you position yourself in your relationships with them. Your level of empathy can be significantly influenced by how much you read.
Since we already established that reading books can help you better understand your place in the world, it goes without saying that it also plays a role in improving the way you understand your relationships and how you should act to have better ones with the ones around you.
Being smart is a collection of aptitudes and this is one of them. Reading will improve your ability to feel and use your empathy to position yourself better in your relationships, it will help you understand others and how they act, as well as the reasoning behind their actions.
This can have a positive influence on your life and is another sign of intelligence in the more modern sense of the word. Being intelligent is more than just your ability to learn and understand new concepts, it is a way of measuring your ability to relate to others as well.
8. Reading Activates and Keeps Parts of Your Brain Engaged, Improving Its Performance
As I mentioned when I was describing the influence reading has on your memory, your brain can be seen as a muscle. Exercising can make it stronger and can help it perform better.
Studies have shown that reading helps activate the following areas in our brain:
- Medial Prefrontal Cortex
- Lateral Temporal Cortex
- Hippocampal Formation
- Posterior Cingulate Cortex
- Inferior Parietal Lobe
Having a “well-trained” brain has a plethora of benefits, both related to your mental health and to your mental abilities.
9. Reading Improves Your General Knowledge
Reading makes you smarter in the most literal sense of the word too. On top of the amazing benefits it has on our brain health, reading is by far the ultimate learning tool. Reading is the number one source of information for us throughout our school years, and even though things change slightly later in life, reading does boost our general knowledge even as adults.
Whether we are passionate about fiction or non-fiction, our brain acquires information through reading. It can be details about a certain place in the world, interesting facts about historical events, or simply general things about a time in history. Regardless of what your takeaway is from whatever it is you’re reading, the important thing to remember is that some information is stored and becomes available for later use through each and every single reading session.
This will, without a doubt, make you a smarter, more interesting person.
10. Reading Expands Your Cultural Understanding
One great thing about traveling is that you expose yourself to different cultures and you get to see how people with a completely different history and set of values live their lives. Reading can have a similar effect.
Through reading, you get to travel both in space and time. You can read a book about 1800s Sicily today and another one about life in North America next week. This will expose you to different ways of thinking, different cultures, and will provide you with life experiences you would normally only gain in years of travel.
Reading will therefore enrich your views, and will help you gain a different, more complex perspective on culture on an international level. Through reading, you can experience life without boundaries and limitations.
11. Reading Supercharges Your Imagination
While part of your reading is processed by the temporal lobe, which is responsible for creating memories and language processing among other things, there is an even more interesting effect reading has on your brain.
Reading gives your imagination a massive boost. You might think that having a rich imagination is not exactly a synonym for being smart, but you would be partly wrong. There is a strong direct link between imagination and intelligence.
Reading exercises your imagination constantly. You get to see in your mind’s eye everything you are reading about and your ability to visualize characters, imagine the way the surroundings look in the story, and recreate these images in your mind will slowly improve.
Better imagination leads to better creativity, which is a great tool to have these days. Being creative will help you not only use it to actually create different things and come up with stories of your own, but also plays an important role in the way you approach issues and solve problems.
12. Reading Makes Your Brain Learn Quicker
Reading and reading comprehension go hand in hand with your ability to learn. There is a snowball effect you need to take into account whenever you consider reading as a tool to improve your learning abilities.
The more you read, the better your brain functions and the easier it becomes for you to understand new concepts, retain information, and learn new things in general.
13. Reading Helps Your Brain Structure Information Better
Everything we read is structured in a comprehensive manner. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and a conclusion. Most books are structured in multiple chapters, have a storyline that makes sense, and present a sequence of events.
This way of organizing information will become a natural habit for you as you read more and more books. Your brain will learn that information needs to be organized and well-structured in order to be comprehensive and you will increase your ability to adapt to this line of thinking.
It goes without saying that having a mind that works in a structured and well-organized manner is an incredibly useful thing. You will be able to increase your focus and expand your attention span, which in turn will allow you to learn more and better, thus making you a smarter person.
How to Boost Intelligence through Reading?
Since now all the benefits reading has on your brain and your level of intelligence are pretty obvious, you are probably wondering how to take full advantage of everything reading can do for you. Well, the good news is that we know just the tool that can help.
Basmo, our reading tracking app, can help you read more and better while enhancing the experience and making the process a lot more enjoyable. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Here’s how Basmo can help you maximize the value of your reading sessions.
1. Basmo Helps You Be a Better-Organized Reader
Adding structure to your reading habits will have a positive effect on your experience and on the actual amount of time and effort you put into reading.
Basmo comes with a scheduling feature that allows you to set a date and time for each individual reading session. That way, you can choose the exact days and times you want to get some reading done and the app will even remind you of any upcoming scheduled reading sessions.
And more importantly, the scheduling assistant gives you just enough freedom so you can always work around your daily schedule and take advantage of every minute of free time.
2. Use Reading Lists
While any kind of reading will have a positive effect on how smart you are, it is no surprise for anyone that non-fiction books have a different way of impacting your brain than fiction novels. For that reason, if you are looking to become a balanced and accomplished reader, you should always keep in mind that you should do just enough reading from each category.
Basmo allows you to create as many reading lists as you want. You can easily create separate lists for fiction and non-fiction books, or you can even separate them by genre to make sure you expand your experience as much as possible. The lists are easy to create, customize, and manage.
3. Basmo Encourages You to Set and Meet Personal Goals
Whether you want to read more every day or if you are more worried about the number of books you get to finish within any given year, Basmo has got you covered. Our app encourages you to set reading goals and you can make your choice from a daily goal for the number of minutes spent reading every day and a yearly goal that focuses on the number of books you read within a year. Or you can choose both.
Regardless of your choice, Basmo is going to track and display your progress toward meeting your goals in a comprehensive way that will keep you motivated to keep pushing yourself.
Along with a huge number of other benefits, ranging from stress relief, blood pressure decrease, slowing down mental decline in old age to prolonged life expectancy, reading also helps us become smarter people.
Not only does it provide us with essential knowledge, but it also helps us keep our brains healthy and engaged, which makes us better functioning human beings.
And perhaps a bit surprisingly, reading apps can actually help us as well. Certain features they offer have a positive effect on how our brain works.
Basmo, for example, offers its users the option to save their favorite quotes from the books they read as images. This helps users visualize the quotes, which works wonders in memorizing them. As I mentioned before as well, the app also includes a feature that allows users to take notes while reading.On top of this, since we now know that reading makes you smarter, it’s good to keep in mind how much Basmo can help you start and maintain healthy reading habits. You can set reading goals, setting yourself daily targets for time spent reading and it will even notify you whenever you are about to miss a reading session if you set reminders in the app.
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