Poetry requires more brain power than prose

quill.jpgA collaboration between the English department of St Andrews University and psychologists from Dundee has discovered that reading poetry involves deeper thought than prose.

Psychologist Martin Fischer led a team that used an infra-red eyetracking device to measure how often the eyes moved across the page and within sentences, when people were reading poetry or prose.

The poems were in their original format, and the prose was created by taking the poems and removing the line breaks and formatting, while leaving the words intact. This was so any differences could not be attributed to the words themselves.

Among the poems were Shelley’s Ozymandias and parts of Lord Byron’s Beppo.

The team found that the poems took more time to read, involved far more recapping of words and sentences, and less jumping forward, suggesting poetry had to be analysed and considered more deeply than prose to be understood.

The team plan to use brain imaging to discover which areas of the brain are involved in understanding different these different forms of text.

Link to write-up of research from Scotland on Sunday.

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