When you learn a new skill, it often impacts the way you perform other tasks. When you learn to read, the impact the skill has on other abilities is one that is unexpected: the way your brain sees mirror images.
Researchers have found that young children do not recognize the difference between an object and its mirror image. In the past it was believed that only dyslexic children confused “b” and “d” and “p” and “q.” However, they now believe every child that has not learned to read confuses these mirror image letters.
Unlike children that do not have a problem adjusting to mirror images, I have noticed my own personal struggle with mirror images over the years. Every time I am getting ready for the day and I see my clock in the mirror I have to make a cognitive effort to decipher the real time. Sometimes I give up all together and physically turn my head to be sure I get the proper time. Also, when checking the back of my hair in a mirror, I often naturally reach for the wrong side of my head and only know which direction to move my hand to fix my hair by first making the wrong choice.
Evolutionary scientists believe we originally had the skill to automatically see mirror images as identical for protective reasons. If an animal could properly position one of its predators by its reflection in the water, it could better remove itself from a harmful situation.
However, as we learn to read, the brain must learn to differentiate mirror images as separate in order to notice the difference between letters that would otherwise be identical. Technically our brains should still see images as identical and only letters and numbers as different. I somewhat doubt this finding since I have problems with both.
Interestingly, the research also found that adults who have not learned to read see mirror images the way young children who have not learned to read do. However, when these adults learn to read, their perception of mirror images also changes.
Because of all the things you gain from the ability to read, it is well worth the poorer interpretation of mirror images that comes with it. If you disagree, read this post from our blog to learn 30 of the reasons I believe reading is more important than the way you interpret yourself in a mirror: "30 Reasons Reading Should Be a Priority"
Also you can share any discontent with my claim that reading is more important than the way you interpret yourself in a mirror in the comment section of this post.
The research on this post comes from the work of cognitive neuroscientist, Stanislas Dehaene, at the French medical-research agency, INSERM.
Read more about his research: “The Da vinci Code: Reading May Involve Unlearning An Older Skill”
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