Slower World of Narrative Leads to Analogies, Comparisons and Understanding

(p. A25) As the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield writes in her book “Mind Change,” expert online gamers have a great capacity for short-term memory, to process multiple objects simultaneously, to switch flexibly between tasks and to quickly process rapidly presented information.
. . .
Research at the University of Oslo and elsewhere suggests that people read a printed page differently than they read off a screen. They are more linear, more intentional, less likely to multitask or browse for keywords.
The slowness of solitary reading or thinking means you are not as concerned with each individual piece of data. You’re more concerned with how different pieces of data fit together. How does this relate to that? You’re concerned with the narrative shape, the synthesizing theory or the overall context. You have time to see how one thing layers onto another, producing mixed emotions, ironies and paradoxes. You have time to lose yourself in another’s complex environment.
As Greenfield puts it, “by observing what happens, by following the linear path of a story, we can convert information into knowledge in a way that emphasizing fast response and constant stimulation cannot. As I see it, the key issue is narrative.”
When people in this slower world gather to try to understand connections and context, they gravitate toward a different set of questions. These questions are less about sensation than about meaning. They argue about how events unfold and how context influences behavior. They are more likely to make moral evaluations. They want to know where it is all headed and what are the ultimate ends.
Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use experience, knowledge and the products of lifelong education that have been stored in long-term memory. It is the ability to make analogies and comparisons about things you have studied before. Crystallized intelligence accumulates over the years and leads ultimately to understanding and wisdom.

For the full commentary, see:
David Brooks. “Building Attention Span.” The New York Times (Fri., JULY 10, 2015): A25.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

The book discussed in the commentary, is:
Greenfield, Susan. Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains. New York: Random House, 2015.

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