21 June 2013
INCREASING ONE'S COMFORT WITH AMBIGUITY
As a timely follow-up to yesterday's post, new research has found an antidote to snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making ~ reading fiction. The scholars found that "The thinking a person engages in while reading fiction does not necessarily lead him or her to a decision. This decreases the reader's need to come to a definite conclusion.
"Furthermore, while reading, 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. This double release ~ of thinking through events without concerns for urgency and permanence, and thinking in ways that are different from one's own ~ may produce effects of opening the mind.
" .... It is likely that only when experiences of this kind accumulate to reach some critical mass would they lead to long-term changes of meta-cognitive habits.
" .... These results should give people pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities. While success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives."
I heartily agree with, and have long pursued, the need to satisfy a balance in one's reading between non-fiction (history, memoir, news analysis) and fiction (short stories and novels). During my university years, which were steeped in dense and demanding texts on biology, ecology, evolution, mammalogy, ornithology, herpitology, animal behavior, oceanography, environmental education, genetics, comparative anatomy/physiology, and multiple math courses, I found relief and a measure of balance by hungrily consuming fiction, especially science fiction. The release into imagination was helpful, and reminded me of my hunger for fiction as a child.
These days fiction is prevalent, yet non-fiction eerily makes a regular appearance as I follow the recommendations of book reviews. Life is good.