Humans logo

Why do we rhyme?

From emotional impact to memory enhancement

By Matti PietarinenPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
Why do we rhyme?
Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

We rhyme, but why? As in, why do we spend the effort? Rhymes need additional effort. However, they also have a benefit. Science is now able to explain why. All right, let's be serious: rhymes are very popular. They can even strengthen our bonds with others and aid in memory retention. Additionally, scientists have found out why rhymes have such a special power over us. Researchers have discovered ways to measure how enjoyable, relatable, and memorable rhymes are for individuals of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

Poetry and song lyrics are rife with rhymes. The things we like to do when we have free time. Therefore, if we're choosing to surround ourselves with rhymes all the time, they must be beneficial to us. Naturally, scientists turned to our brains to find the answers when attempting to identify that something. By that, I mean that while study participants were reading, a few neuroscientists in the UK used a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, or fMRI, to take brain scans. The participants read an emotionally charged novel's prologue, some unfamiliar sonnets, rhyming poetry that they found especially moving, and an installation manual for a heating system.

Well, at least the study provided them with some useful knowledge. The purpose of the study was to determine how readers' brains functioned when they read these various texts. It is also not surprising that the participants' reading comprehension involved the activation of the occipital and temporal lobes, which are responsible for visual word processing. However, when they were reading their favorite poems, they were using different parts of their brains for reading. which the authors speculated could have been the result of the participants' memorization of the poems. It is possible that they came into the study knowing something about those words. And an emotional and physical reaction result from that mental link. It was discovered that the emotionally charged content was more poignant. in the true sense.

It triggered the brain's motor centers, including the cerebellum and premotor cortex, which are also responsible for chills when listening to intense music. Furthermore, the participants rated the poetry as being more emotionally charged to read than the novel or rhymes. This held true even for the poems that the participants didn't think were particularly moving. Therefore, even though we are reading words on a page in both scenarios, there is undoubtedly something about rhymes that causes our brains to respond differently than it does with prose. Furthermore, based on those brain scans, reflection appears to be the secret ingredient. Rhyming poetry activates specific brain regions more than prose, including the hippocampus, cingulate gyrus, and temporal lobe.

These regions have been connected to introspective thought and feeling, as well as autobiographical memory. Therefore, rhymes naturally appeal to us more. However, we don't merely rhyme because it makes us happy. They serve a purpose as well. Rhyming, for example, can facilitate learning new material. According to a 2020 study, reading passages with rhymes increases our propensity to go back and fully understand what we're reading. Software that tracks participants' eye movements while they read rhymes presented in prose and verse was used in this study. There were some rhymes in both formats, but they were only particularly noticeable in the verse format when they appeared at the end of lines.

And when rhymes are presented in this way, we spend more time with them and they aid in our comprehension of the text, according to the researchers' findings. It's unclear at this point if participants' comprehension of the passages was enhanced by rereading them. Furthermore, the study did not investigate whether our increased rereading of rhymes is due to their increased complexity or their inherent value. In any case, the correlation was present. We are therefore more willing to reread rhymes in poetry than prose, and it facilitates our understanding of the content, regardless of why or how it all works. And those conclusions alone would have made this an interesting study.

However, the fact that these individuals were reading the well-known French poem "Les Chats" makes it even more significant. They noticed patterns that matched those found in English poetry reading. Therefore, it's clear that this is a cross-cultural—or at the very least, cross-linguistic—issue even though it doesn't mean that these guidelines apply to all languages. Furthermore, rhymes are used for purposes other than just instilling knowledge in our minds. It goes beyond just keeping it there for us. Rhymes, particularly those that conclude a statement, can aid in our retention of information.

For instance, rhyming words at the end of sentences helped children remember the names of imaginary creatures, according to multiple English studies. Children did not recall the names of the monsters as well when they were rhymed at the beginning of the sentence or placed somewhere they did not rhyme. Scientists then searched for an explanation for that outcome. They also saw that the rhyme at the end of the sentence highlighted the monster's name, which may have contributed to the children's retention of it. These children weren't reading poetry by themselves, though; they were between the ages of two and four.

In this study, however, children were read the poems by caregivers. The rhyme had a stronger memory impact when the children's caregivers paused to emphasize it, most likely because their focus was more on it. Thus, rhyming poetry has an impact on both reading and listening. A 2016 study examined the memory retention skills of three groups of people: a listening adult, a listening child, and a reading adult. The words were read aloud and rhymed. Furthermore, the child's memory of the rhymes was superior to everyone else's, including the reader. Children are therefore especially receptive to rhymes. However, some reports indicate that adults can benefit from rhymes as a memory aid as well.

That would have far-reaching effects on adult populations that struggle to retain memories, such as those with Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Poetry Project reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association on the impact of their poetry workshop on individuals receiving dementia care. A participant appeared disengaged from the surrounding events until the workshop facilitator began reciting a rhymed poem. The participant then abruptly began reciting the following line from memory. Poetry therapy has the potential to change people's lives if it can enable them to access their memories at a time in their lives when they are frequently unable to.

According to the report's authors, rhymes encourage people to reactivate their social lives and use brain regions that have been neglected. We can't quite pin all of our hopes on rhymes at the moment. Not enough data is available to make any firm conclusions at this time without longitudinal studies. However, wouldn't it be awesome if rhyme actually had those advantages? Reading a poem has almost no negative aspects. We simply understand rhymes better than non-rhymes due to the way our brains react to them. which is fantastic because we can use that to establish connections with our memories, feelings, and one another.

advicesciencefact or fiction

About the Creator

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.