If you enjoy reading books, you might be wondering, are readers smarter? The simple answer is yes, but we can’t be sure if that is because they are more intelligent because of reading or if they are smarter and driven to read. But what matters most is that the more you read, the more you learn and know about the world.
As someone who couldn’t read till I was a teenager, I fell in love with reading once I learnt how to do it. Since then, I’ve been a regular reader and want to share eleven reasons readers are smarter.
1) Reading Helps You Understand People Better
While a book is usually written by one person, they are filled with many different people living different lives. All these different experiences come together to create a collection of different life experiences. And while we can’t say they are real lives, they are examples that we can use to understand how other people may see the world.
In psychology, there is an idea called the “theory of mind,” which is the ability to understand other people and that their behaviours come from mental states. This means that the more experience we have with other people, the more we can understand why they might do the things they do.
This is important for book readers because we are exposed to a much more extensive range of personalities than we might meet in real life.
Readers are more intelligent because they have a more extended range of experiences with people in different situations. You could argue that we can gain similar experiences from other mediums, like movies or video games, but from my experience, books tend to have deeper character development than other mediums.
In real life, you will have experiences with all sorts of people, but often you won’t know what is going on inside their heads. Luckily, books give you a chance to sit inside someone else’s head and understand why they do what they do. The more we understand people and their motivations, the more we can make sense of the world around us.
2) Reading Improves Your Ability To Focus
Focus like any other skill is something that you get better at with practice, and if you have ever read a book, you know it takes more focus than a lot of other things. Once you’ve developed a habit of reading, it is something you can do every day, and while you are doing it, you will be focused on reading rather than anything else.
I’ve never been a fan of TV, but when my mom is watching it, and I ask her about things that have happened, she often says she wasn’t paying attention. While I can’t be sure that her experience is the same as others’, I know that I can’t stop paying attention if I’m reading. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be reading.
But what is essential to take away here is that reading is a task that takes lots of focused attention to do successfully.
While you could say that in many ways, our attention these days has been spread thin and might be less important than it would have been in the past. Regardless of if that is true, having focused attention is necessary for clear decision-making. Often we are rushed or pushed to make choices without thinking, and this is particularly difficult if we don’t have the patients to step back and think before acting.
Readers are more intelligent because they have practice with focus and can think more clearly than those who don’t.
3) Reading Helps Improve Your Imagination and Memory
Being a good problem solver requires thinking differently about situations and problems; reading books helps here because it exposes you to other possibilities. This depends on the types of books you are reading. But still, the general idea is that books expose us to alternative worlds and opportunities that likely are different from what we experience in our day-to-day.
Readers are also smarter because they require a solid memory to keep up with the books they are reading.
When you are watching a movie, you only need to remember for a couple of hours, but with a book, you need to keep the story in your mind for longer so that it continues to make sense along the way. Regular readers will rarely forget the stories they are reading, so they will have more practice building memories.
Also, to help avoid having a problem of forgetting what you are reading, it is better to not read multiple books at once.
As I type this, I remember certain lines or scenes from books I have read in the past, its funny cause they are from long ago, and there are lots of more important things that have since slipped my mind.
Books are great for our imagination and memories, which are two tools that are important to thinking creatively and clearly about problems and situations.
4) Reading Introduces You To New Worlds
As I mentioned earlier, reading books exposes us to new possibilities which can help increase our imaginations. While that in itself can be helpful, there is also the more significant potential that books expose us to. Many of my more favourite books come from other countries or times before I was alive.
While these books are enjoyable, they also introduce new worlds that I wouldn’t have know otherwise.
How exposure to new worlds makes you more brilliant is that it shows you other possibilities and different ways that things could be. Say you are reading a science fiction novel; it might explore the risks of technologies that you currently don’t think a lot about.
This isn’t to say that we should avoid these technologies, as we likely don’t have that much power over the path the world takes, but it does help in giving us a unique perspective that can help us think divergently.
Being a clever thinker requires having an open mind, but on top of that, we need to be exposed to lots of ideas to decide which ones are best. Readers are smarter because they have access to more perspectives and different potentials.
These extra options allow them to think more dynamically about problems and come up with solutions that people who don’t read might not know about.
5) Reading Exposues Us to New Words
When I first started reading, I didn’t recognize many words, so I pulled out a dictionary and looked them out. In time, I had a list of new words that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Knowing lots of words give you the ability to think differently or in different ways.
If you have ever read 1984, you know that they have something called newspeak, which changes the meaning of words so that people can’t think about complex issues or describe the problems they are experiencing. While that is a work of fiction, its ideas are essential, as the fewer words we know, the more difficult it is to think about complicated things.
There is that saying that if you can’t explain it to a child, you don’t understand it yourself.
While that might be true in some cases, there are benefits to know lots of words as they make thinking about complex issues easier, as you can skip steps at times. On top of this, when you know more words, you will understand what people are saying. I know I’m not common, but when someone uses a word I don’t know, I ask them what it means because I want to understand.
Reading makes you smarter because it exposes you to more words, making it easier to think about complicated topics and issues.
6) Reading Helps You Better Understand The World
I’m a huge fan of fiction, but I also read non-fiction, which is excellent for learning about the world. Non-fiction often tells a story of what someone else has done or covers a topic with lots of details. These books serve as great educational tools that teach us about how the world works. And while, at times, we might learn about a niche topic, we still gain insights that can be applied to other issues.
While we can never truly understand everything, the more knowledge we have, the better equipped we are to make sense of what is happening or use what is happening to our advantage.
I remember reading a book about world finance and how there was an economic levelling coming. At the same time, I was curious about bitcoin and the book, while unrelated, made a good argument for cryptocurrency. My point is that reading books can make you smarter because it gives you different ways to think about what is currently happening.
While the books we read don’t always relate to what we are experiencing, they can provide us with insights that we might apply to different topics.
On top of all of this, the more we know, the better we are; as Sir Francis Bacon said, “knowledge is power.”
7) Reading Helps Open Your Mind To Possibilities
When we are kids, and someone asks us what we want to be when we grow up, we tend to stick with conventional ideas like firefighter, doctor, or lawyer. We often pick these things because they are the only jobs we know about as young people, partly because these are popular jobs on TV shows. But the reality is, there are tons of jobs or opportunities that people don’t know about.
Many of the limitations in life are based on the fact that we don’t know that other options are out there.
For this reason, readers are smarter because they are exposed to more possibilities, so they are aware of more options. For the most part, our worldview is fuelled by the media we consume, and much of the mainstream media is filled with ordinary jobs and lifestyles.
But when you read books, you are shown options that might be outside of the norm, giving you more opportunities to try different things. I mentioned this earlier, but creative thinking requires lots of examples of possibilities. Adding to this, when it comes time to choose a career or what you should do with your life, it is a creative project that requires examples.
The more models you have, the more creative you will be, or the more options you will have.
There are many different ways to open our minds to possibilities, but books are unique because they show other options but don’t require the budgets that movies, games and TV shows would. Put another way; books can apply to smaller audiences because they don’t always have to maximize profits. At the same time, they can bring atypical ideas to the public that wouldn’t otherwise have an audience.
8) Reading Keeps Your Brain Active, Even After You’ve Finished Reading
If you have ever read a book you enjoyed, you might have found that your brain was thinking about it even after you finished reading for the day. I can say for myself that when I find a book I love, I can’t wait to get back to read it. But did you know that even after you finish reading a book, your brain is still more active or functioning at a higher level than it was before you started reading?
This study found that brain imaging that measures brain connectivity showed higher brain connectivity after reading a book than before.
The study also found that these changes were happening in the parts of the brain that were related to language processing. While we might spend a lot of time talking, we might not necessarily work on our deeper processing skills, which is a great reason why we should read to build upon these facilities.
Keeping an active mind is great for our mental health, and as the previous study shows, reading keeps our brains active even after we stop reading.
As we mentioned earlier, we get better at something when we practise it, so reading makes you smarter because it keeps your brain active.
9) Reading Improves Your Ability To Think Logically About Things
One thing that I’ve noticed about reading many books is that it’s taught me about familiar storylines or story progressions. I say this because when I watch movies or TV shows, I can often predict the outcome early on in the story. This, at times, can be annoying to my wife because I might ruin the movie for her, but it is an exciting thing to experience.
The more stories we read, the more examples of the logic of a story we get in our minds; in time, we can use these experiences to create a sort of schema for stories.
At the same time, certain things have to happen earlier in the story for other things to happen later in the story. This means that there is a build-up of causes and then finally an effect. While this might be an abstract explanation, the idea is that for a story to be good, there needs to be some logic to it, and as we gain experience with reasoning, we become better thinkers.
Again, with practise, we get better at doing things ourselves, and novels need to make sense to be good. So, the more we read, the more logic we are exposed to, the more we can use logic to think about the situations we find ourselves in.
Reading makes us smarter because it builds on our reason skills, which we use all the time, but with stories at least, we also get to learn from someone else’s experiences.
10) Reading Improves Your Crystallized Intelligence
We all know that IQ is important, but did you know that there were two different types of intelligence? According to Raymond Cattell, a psychologist, there is fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence might be more closely related to what people see as brilliance, as it relates to solving novel or new problems using pure brainpower. But the other type, crystallized intelligence, is powered by knowledge.
Crystallized intelligence is a measure of the ability of someone to use the knowledge that they already have about the world, break it down, and use it to solve problems.
But the key here is that it is the knowledge that someone has gained about the world. How this relates to reading, and why readers are smarter, is that reading books fills our minds we ideas and new information. The more we read, the more sources of ideas we have, which we can use to solve problems.
While reading might not make you more intelligent in the way that we usually think of IQ, i.e., as something we are born with, reading can make you smart because it gives you more information to work with when solving problems.
The truth is that we live in a complicated world with lots of problems; the less experience we have, either in-person experience or through learning, the less equipped we are to deal with those problems.
To improve your chances of being a good problem solver, read more books.
11) Reading Is A Skill That Requires Effort, And You Get Better With Practice
As we have hinted along the way, anything you can improve at will happen with practice. And as reading is something that you can improve at, the more you read, the better you will get at it. At the same time, reading requires lots of skills that not only help with reading but help with other aspects of life. So the more we read, the better we are at thinking and understanding.
Reading provides us with lots of information that we can use to solve problems later.
Reading also helps us work on our focus, which can help us take more time to think about complex issues and come up with better solutions. In addition, the logic of stories helps us work on our logic skills, which can help us think more clearly and precisely.
On top of all of this, as I have discussed in previous articles, struggles lead to success, so when something is difficult, it likely makes us stronger and more able to deal with challenges in the future. At the same time, the idea of putting effort into something makes us stronger and gives us a sense of resistance and a willingness to face challenges.
Reading books might seem like a passe thing to do because there are so many other types of entertainment these days that are easier to do. But that doesn’t mean we should avoid reading; instead, I’d suggest that is why we should put more effort into reading because it is more difficult than everything else.
In some ways, I’d suggest that readers are smarter because they keep on reading despite the effort it takes.
On top of this, they are regularly exposing themselves to new ideas and filling their minds with further information that might be helpful at some point.
It would be a mistake to make all these suggestions without talking about the books people read. There will be better books than others, and if someone is always reading the same kinds of books, they might not be getting the knowledge exposure that someone who reads lots of different books gets. Regardless, as I’ve pointed out above, there are benefits to reading, even if the book isn’t great.
If you like to read and found this article interesting, you might enjoy my book; it is called How to be Amazing, A Manifesto, and it talks about 42 ways to live a more meaningful life. I’m sure you have come across other self-help books in the past, but this one is different. Rather than selling an unsustainable lifestyle, it covers simple things that can make your life better or help you appreciate what you are already doing. Check it out at the link above.