Will reading make you rich?
If you are an avid reader -- or writer -- of fiction, chances are you took note of a news item that appeared in the Pacific Standard last week (reprinted in Salon over the weekend). Titled "Study: Reading Novels Makes Us Better Thinkers," the article, by Tom Jacobs, cited a recent paper out of the University of Toronto indicating that subjects who read a short story scored lower afterward on tests designed to determine "need for cognitive closure" than did people who'd read an essay. The fiction readers were, the researchers concluded, left more "open-minded," and therefore both more "creative" and "rational" than their nonfiction-reading counterparts.
And it was not just any fiction that did the trick, mind you, but "literary" fiction. What balm to the acolytes of that dwindling corner of the cultural landscape! Many of the novelists, would-be novelists and bookworms who posted the item to their Facebook pages went on with their day ever so slightly perked up. Chances are they did not notice that the cited study was produced by the same circle of Torontonian researchers whose work has prompted similar recent news items. All told, this bunch has announced that reading literature -- specifically fiction -- makes people more empathetic, less inclined toward "attachment avoidance," more socially adept and better able to change for the better in personality and temperament. Taken as a whole, they've touted the novel as a Swiss Army knife for matters of psychological hygiene.