If uncertainty causes you to reach for a Xanax, you might want to grab a copy of Infinite Jest, too.
New research finds that reading fiction causes the reader to be more comfortable with ambiguity and disorder, leading to greater creativity and sophisticated thinking. Since literature rarely ends in a clear and neat conclusion, it decreases the need the reader feels to solve the unknown.
By putting readers in a new mindset, literature can also be mind-opening. The researchers, University of Toronto scholars Maja Dijikic, Keith Oatley, and Mihnea C. Moldoveanu, explained that “The reader can simulate the thinking styles even of people he or she might personally dislike. One can think along and even feel along with Humbert Humbert in Lolita, no matter how offensive one finds this character.”
As Pacific Standard pointed out, perhaps this is yet another reason to reconsider the cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities. Reading fiction increases the ability to see different perspectives and perform affective decision making, skills that are important in most fields.
We always knew reading was good for us, and now we have science to back it up.