How Reading Fiction Helps You Think Better

A University of Toronto study showed that people who read literary fiction have less need for "cognitive closure," allowing for more creative and sophisticated thinking.

What's the Latest Development?


A team of University of Toronto scholars asked 100 students to read either one of several literary short stories or one of several nonfiction essays before completing a survey about their emotional need for certainty. Those who read the short stories received much lower scores, which indicated greater comfort with ambiguity. If they were frequent readers, they were even more likely to have less of a need for order. A paper published in Creativity Research Journal contains more details about the research.

What's the Big Idea?

People who feel a strong need for certainty can be more likely to make snap judgments and grow rigid in their thinking. Reading fiction enables them to engage in thinking that doesn't necessarily result in a clear decision. Also, the act of reading allows readers to simulate characters' thinking styles even if they're different from their own. Together, these two effects can help to make closed minds more open to different types of people and ways of thinking. This characteristic is just as important for job success as is the kind of knowledge gained by reading nonfiction, say the scholars.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at Pacific Standard

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Extreme opponents of GM foods know the least science, but think they know the most

New research on the public's opinion about genetically modified foods illustrates an alarming cognitive bias.

(Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Mind & Brain
  • A recent study compared the public's scientific literacy with their attitudes on GM foods.
  • The results showed that "as the extremity of opposition increased, objective knowledge went down, but self-assessed knowledge went up."
  • The results also suggest that, in terms of policy efforts to boost scientific literacy, education about a given topic alone isn't going to be enough.
Keep reading Show less