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.

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