Literary Fiction and the Open Mind

Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to Literature on the Need for Closure.

Djikic, Maja maja.djikic@rotman.utoronto.ca
Oatley, Keith
Moldoveanu, Mihnea C.

Creativity Research Journal. 2013, Vol. 25 Issue 2, p149-154. 6p

Abstract:

The need for cognitive closure has been found to be associated with a variety of suboptimal information processing strategies, leading to decreased creativity and rationality. This experiment tested the hypothesis that exposure to fictional short stories, as compared with exposure to nonfictional essays, will reduce need for cognitive closure. One hundred participants were assigned to read either an essay or a short story (out of a set of 8 essays and 8 short stories matched for length, reading difficulty, and interest). After reading, their need for cognitive closure was assessed. As hypothesized, when compared to participants in the essay condition, participants in the short story condition experienced a significant decrease in self-reported need for cognitive closure. The effect was particularly strong for participants who were habitual readers (of either fiction or non-fiction). These findings suggest that reading fictional literature could lead to better procedures of processing information generally, including those of creativity.

 

Conclusion:

It is hoped that this experiment will stimulate further investigation into the potential of literature in opening closed minds, as well as give one a pause to think about the effects of current cut-backs of education in the arts and humanities. In ancient Greece, all students, no matter their future profession, had to know Homer by heart. The method may seem outdated, yet one may still wonder how such an immersion in literature may have contributed to the education of philosophers, mathematicians, and writers who, although separated from present time by two-and-a-half millennia, developed minds whose supple and agile turns are still admired.

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