Reading in company boosts creativity

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

We process language differently depending on whether we are reading alone or in the company of another person, according to a study carried out by teachers and researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) and published in Cortex.

The results of recording in the brain indicated that when we read in company, our is more heuristic, i.e. more global, controlled, integrated and possibly more creative.

"However, when we read alone, our language processing is more algorithmic, in other words, more automatic, limited and subject to rules," explained Laura Jiménez Ortega, a researcher in the Department of Psychobiology at the UCM and the UCM-ISCIII Centre for Evolution and Human Behavior.

To compare the effect of company and solitude on language comprehension, the researchers measured using electroencephalography (EEG).

Participants read texts containing syntactic or semantic errors, half of them in solitude and the other half in company. Those reading in company showed activity in the precuneus, an area of the brain involved in social and attentional processing. In addition, their language comprehension was more global and integrated compared with that of subjects reading alone.

In the , syntactic errors elicited a pattern of electrical activity characteristic of semantic processing (N400), which is considered more heuristic and integrated. However, electrical brain activity in subjects reading alone showed a LAN pattern, characteristic of early, automatic processing.

The caused by the current coronavirus pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity, prompting researchers to change perspective and conduct more research into social aspects of behavior and language comprehension.

"Given that company favors a more creative and integrated understanding whereas isolation leads to more detailed and systematic processing, we need to start thinking more about the impact of social interaction in research, in education and in professional settings where is fundamental," concluded Jiménez Ortega.

More information: Clara Hinchcliffe et al, Language comprehension in the social brain: Electrophysiological brain signals of social presence effects during syntactic and semantic sentence processing, Cortex (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2020.03.029

Journal information: Cortex
Provided by Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Citation: Reading in company boosts creativity (2020, September 22) retrieved 22 February 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

The brain uses minimum effort to look for key information in text


Feedback to editors