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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.
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Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to
Literature on the Need for Closure
Maja Djikic
a
, Keith Oatley
a
& Mihnea C. Moldoveanu
a
a
University of Toronto
Published online: 17 May 2013.
To cite this article: Maja Djikic , Keith Oatley & Mihnea C. Moldoveanu (2013): Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of
Exposure to Literature on the Need for Closure, Creativity Research Journal, 25:2, 149-154
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Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to
Literature on the Need for Closure
Maja Djikic, Keith Oatley, and Mihnea C. Moldoveanu
University of Toronto
The need for cognitive closure has been found to be associated with a variety of
suboptimal information processing strategies, leading to decreased creativity and ration-
ality. 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 com-
pared 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.
The need for cognitive closure is a need to reach a quick
conclusion in decision-making and an aversion to ambi-
guity and confusion. It encourages ‘‘seizing’’ on an early
statement or proposition in the process of acquiring
knowledge, followed by rigidly ‘‘freezing’’ on the seized
item, and remaining impervious to additional infor-
mation (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996, p. 265). Two gen-
eral properties of this need are an urgency to reach a
conclusion, and a rigidity or viscosity of the conclusion
that is reached.
Heightened need for closure, which causes reliance on
early information cues and a corresponding reduction in
internally generated hypotheses (Mayseless & Kru-
glanski, 1987), is amon g the biases that have been pos-
ited as impedances to rationality (Stanovich, West, &
Toplak, 2011). Paradoxically, the smaller the number
of alternative hypotheses, the greater is the thinker’s
confidence in their validity (Kelley, 1971; Kruglanski
& Web ster 1991, Webster, 1993). The qua lity of the sub-
jects’ information also suffers, because the pressure of
seizing causes one to seek more prototypical
information about categories, rather than diagnostic
information that enables one to differentiate among
categories (Kruglanski & Mayseless, 1988; Trope &
Bassok, 1983). Furthermore, heightened need for cogni-
tive closure seems to lead to a preference for considering
smaller amounts of information before making final
decisions (Choi, Koo, Choi, & Auh, 2008; Ford &
Kruglanski, 1995; Houghton & Grewal, 2000) and a
reliance on simple, rather than complex, cognitive struc-
tures when interpreting or making sense of that infor-
mation (Van Hiel, 2001; Van Hiel & Mervielde, 2003).
It is not only rationality, but creativity as well, that is
impeded by the heightened need for closure. Research
has shown that individuals high on the need for closure
produced objects and figures that were judged to be less
creative by independent judges than individuals who are
low in the need for closure (Rocchi, 1998). In a group
setting, both situational manipulation of need for clos-
ure (through time pressure) and individual differences
in the need for closure lead to less creativity and idea-
tional fluidity (Chirumbolo, Livi, Mannetti, Pierro, &
Kruglanski, 2004). If having a closed mind can affect
both rationality and creativity, the question becomes:
Can anything be done to reduce the need for cognitive
closure, and help open the closed mind?
We thank the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking, Rotman
School of Management, University of Toronto, for funding the
research presented in this article.
Correspondence should be sent to Maja Djikic, Rotman School of
Management, University of Toronto, 105 St. George St., Toronto,
Ontario, Canada, M5S 3E6. E-mail: maja.djikic@rotman.utoronto.ca
CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL, 25(2), 149–154, 2013
Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1040-0419 print=1532-6934 online
DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2013.783735
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This article deals with whether reading fictional
literature can affect the need for cognitive closure. The
framework here is built on the insight that fictional litera-
ture can be conceptualized as a cognitive and emotional
simulation in which the travails of fictional characters
are run on minds and brains, as a computer application
runs on a computer’s operating system and hardw are
(Oatley, 1999). Although cognitive processes involved
in reading fiction are very similar to cognitive processes
in everyday life (Gerrig, 1998), the two differ in impor-
tant ways. Unlike in everyday life, the thinking a person
engages in while reading fiction does not necessarily lead
him or her to a decision, and therefore has tendencies
neither of urgency nor permanence that propel the need
for cognitive closure. 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. The
kind of thinking that persons do while reading simulates
thinking in real life so closel y that Zwann (2004)
hypothesized that reading automatically activates neural
events similar to those occurring in the lives of the char-
acters one reads about. This double release—of thinking
through events without concern for urgency and perma-
nence and thinking in ways that are different than one’s
own—may produce effects of opening the mind.
One question tackled in this study is whether reading
nonfictional texts such as essays has effects on belief
processing that are different from those of reading fic-
tional texts such as short stories. In both cases, a reader
tries to understand another’s thinking (and feeling). The
difference, though, is that in nonfiction there is a clear
delineation between the author’s and the reader’s opi-
nions, such that the reader is either persuaded or not
by the author’s arguments and stances. With nonfiction,
changing or not changing the content of one’s belief sys-
tem is still bound by permanence and, in at least some
cases, by urgency, because one’s opinion, once settled
upon, can have implications for decision making. The
content of one’s belief system may change, but meta-
cognitive processes may be unaffected. With fiction it
was hypothesized that there may be greater flexibility
of a meta-cognitive kind. It was previously found that
whether a text was nonfiction or fiction made no differ-
ence to whether changes occurred in participants’ self
perceived personality when they read the text; only the
text’s artistic level affected personality (Djikic, Oatley
& Carland, 2012). In this article, there is a different,
meta-cognitive question in relation to beliefs. Is fiction,
specifically, able to open closed minds?
A second question tackled is whet her, as compared
with reading a nonfictional essay, reading a fictional
short story would have a stronger effect when habitual
nonfiction readers are asked to read it, because they
would thereby be introduced to a nonhabitual manner
of thinking, or whether, on the contrary, the effect
may be stronger for habitual fiction readers.
Both these questions are tested in this study. Parti-
cipants were asked to read either an essay or a short
story, chosen from a set that was controlled for length,
complexity, and interest level. Also measured was the
amount of nonfiction and fiction that participants
engaged in reading habitually. The first hypothesis was
that, as compared with those who read an essay, parti-
cipants who read a fictional story woul d show reduced
need for cognitive closure, and the second hypothesis
was that there would be differences in this effect as a
function of whether people tended habitually to read
more non-fiction or fiction.
METHOD
Participants
One hundred
1
university students at the University of
Toronto participated in the experiment (69 women).
The age range for the participants was between 18 and
53 (M ¼ 21.7, SD ¼ 5.74). The average number of years
participants spent speaking English in English-speaking
environment was between 4 and 53 (M ¼ 17.8,
SD ¼ 6.98). No data on ethnic or racial belonging were
collected. The campus, located in downtown Toronto,
is highly multicultural. Participants were recruited
through posters that were posted on bulletin boards all
across University of Toronto (libraries, classrooms,
social spaces), in which they were offered $20 to partici-
pate in a study. Interested participants were instructed
to contact the experimenters through e-mail. Parti-
cipants were treated in accordance with American
Psychological Association and Canadian Psychological
Association’s ethical standard for treatment of human
participants.
Instruments
Demographics questionnaire Participants were asked
for their gender, age, and number of years they had spent
speaking English in English-speaking environments.
Author Recognition Test–Revised (ART-R; Mar,
Oatley, Hirsh, dela Paz, & Peterson, 2006). The orig-
inal version of the ART questionnaire was designed by
Stanovich and West (1989), and it offers a good measure
of exposure to print during a participant’s lifetime. ART
1
Please note that effective sample sizes in statistical analyses were
smaller because some of the participants did not successfully complete
the experimental manipulation (reading of the text).
150 DJIKIC, OATLEY, MOLDOVEANU
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predicts reading comprehension and oral language skills
(Mol & Bus, 2011); it correlates with diary-based and
other measures of reading (Allen, Cipielewski, &
Stanovich, 1992) and also correlates with direct beha-
vioral measure of reading behavior (West, Stanovich, &
Mitchell, 1993). Respondents are asked to check off from
a list of names those they recognize as authors. Guessing
and social desirability effects are discouraged by letting
the respondents know that some names are not authors
(they are foils). Mar et al. (2006) revised the original
ART to include 50 writers of fiction only, 50 writers of
nonfiction only, and 40 foils. Four participants who
checked more than two foils were excluded from analyses.
Type of writing: Essays and short stories. Essays
and short stories were chosen from anthologies. For the
most part, they were from the first half of the 20th cen-
tury. The criteria for inclusion were that they had to be
around 6,000 words, a length that was successfully used
previously in a study of reading fiction (Djikic, Oatley,
Zoeterman, & Peterson, 2009b). They were by known
authors. Essays and short stories were chosen so that
the subject matter varied across the chosen set. The
authors and titles of essays and stories are presented in
Table 1. The readability (level of reading difficulty) of
each text was measured by the Flesch-Kincaid Grade
Level score. This score is calculated for a text by the
following formula: (.39 ASL) þ (11.8 ASW) 15.59,
where ASL is average sentence length (the number of
words divided by the number of sentences), and ASW is
average number of syllables per word (the number of syl-
lables divided by the number of words). The greater the
reading, difficulty the higher the grade level (thus, children
in higher grades at school can read more difficult texts).
In their original form, the essays generally had longer
sentences and more polysyllabic, rare words than short
stories. This meant a potential presence of a confounding
variable. If the readability of the essays and short stories
were not the same, it would be impossible to know
whether any experimental effect was due to the exposure
to the variable of essay versus short story or to the
exposure to the text of higher versus lower readability.
Given that making essays more readable could be done
less invasively than making short stories less readable,
the essays were modified. Modifications were undertaken
to reduce the overall length of some of them, and to
increase their readability until, overall, the eight essays
were of the same average length and in the same range
of Flesch-Kincade readability scores as the eight short
stories. The readability was increased in three ways: long
sentences were divided, low frequency words were
replaced with more common synonyms, and complex syn-
tax was simplified. The short stories were left unmodified.
Need for Closure Scale (NFCS; Kruglanski, Web-
ster, & Klem, 1993). This 42-item scale measures the
need for closure across five different subscales: prefer-
ence for order and structure (e.g., ‘‘I think that having
clear rules an d order at work is essential for success’’);
discomfort with ambiguity (e.g., ‘‘I don’t like situations
that are uncertain’’); decisiveness (e.g., ‘‘I would
describe myself as indecisive’’); predictability (e.g., ‘‘I
like to have friends who are unpredictable’’), and closed-
mindedness (e.g., ‘‘I dislike questions which can be
answered in many different ways’’). Past research
indicated that the NFCS has excellent convergent and
discriminant validity, with test–retest reliability of .86,
and high internal consistency, with Cronbach’s alpha
of .84 (Webster & Kruglanski, 1994).
Procedure and Manipulation Checks
Procedure. Participants were ushered into a cubicle
and seated at a desk. They were given a package to com-
plete. First, they completed seven questionnaires, includ-
ing the demographics questionnaire and the ART-R.
Then, they were asked to read either an essay or a short
story. After answering content questions about the text
they had read, and rating it on how artistic and interest-
ing they found it, participants filled out another set of
eight questionnaires, which included the NFCS. It was
hoped that the multiplicity of questionnaires, both
before and after participants had read the text, would
mask the purpose of the experiment and prevent
demand characteristics. Participants were then fully
debriefed and received $20 for their participation.
The participants, instruments, and procedure for this
study were the same as those described by Djikic, Oatley
and Carland (2012), but in our study data was analyzed
on a differe nt outcome variable than previously: the NFCS.
TABLE 1
Essays and Short Stories Used in the Experimental Procedure
Essays Short Stories
Henri Bergson: Why Do We
Laugh?
Paul Bowles: The Echo
John Burroughs: Science and
Literature
Katherine Brush: Night Club
Havelock Ellis: What Makes a
Woman Beautiful?
Frank O’Connor: My Oedipus
Complex
Sigmund Freud: Dreams of the
Death of Beloved Persons
Jean Stafford: A Country Love
Story
John Galsworthy: Castles in Spain Jean Stafford: In the Zoo
Stephen Jay Gould: Nonmoral
Nature
Wallace Stegner: Beyond a Glass
Mountain
George Bernard Shaw: Killing for
Sport
Clark van Tilburg: The Wind and
Snow of Winter
Rabindranath Tagore: East and
West
Glenway Wescott: Prohibition
OPENING THE CLOSED MIND
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Reading and Content Check
Each participant was randomly assigned to read either
an essay or a short story, each of which bore the heading
of its title (but not author). After reading, each partici-
pant was given five short questions about the text’s
content to test whether he or she had read and under-
stood the text. The questions were factual rather than
interpretative. Six participants got three or more
answers of the five incorrect; they were considered not
to have read the text in its entirety and were excluded
from statistical analyses.
Level of Interest and Artistic Merit
Following reading of the text, participant s were asked to
report how interesting and how artistic they foun d the
text, on Likert scales from 0 to 10 (0 ¼ not at all,
10 ¼ extremely). The measure of level of interest was
necessary to ensure that one set of texts—essays or
stories—was not systematically more interesting than
the other. The measure of artistic merit was included
to tell whether any effects were due to the sheer fact of
the text being nonfiction or fiction, or whether it could
be due to the artistry of the writing.
Completion of the NFCS
After they had completed the scales of level of interest
and artistic merit, participants completed the NFCS.
To protect against the social desirability bias, an
additional 5-item lie scale was included (e.g., ‘‘I have
never known someone I didn’t like’’); 7 participants
scored over 15 on this scale, and their data were not used
in the analyses. Overall, 13 participants (6 who did not
demonstrated they had read the text, and 7 who scored
to high on the lie scale) were excluded from analyses.
RESULTS
To test whether there are any potential confounds
regarding length and the complexity of essays and short
stories, t-tests were conducted. There was no significant
difference between the average length of short stories
(M
ss
¼ 5,616, SD
ss
¼ 1,525) and essays (M
e
¼ 5,088,
SD
e
¼ 1,137), t(14) ¼ .79, p ¼ .45, and no significant
difference in readability, as measured by Flesch-Kincaid
Grade Level, t(14) ¼.04, p ¼ .97 (M
ss
¼ 7.2, SD
ss
¼ 1.7;
M
e
¼ 7.2, SD
e
¼ .62).
To test whet her there were significant differences in
level of interest and artistic merit between essays and
short stories, a one-way ANOVA was conducted, and
it showed no significant difference between the groups
of those who read an essay and those who read a short
story, F(1, 85) ¼ .92, p ¼ .34 (level of interest), and
F(1,85) ¼ .39, p ¼ .53 (artistic merit). The potential con-
found of the participants finding eithe r essays or short
stories more interesting or artistic was thus avoided.
Finally, a reliability analysis for NFCS showed
Cronbach’s alpha value as .77 for the entire scale. Alpha
values for the subscales were .74 (order), .78 (predict-
ability), .72 (decisiveness), .62 (ambi guity), and .56
(closed mindedness).
To test the central hypothesis, a univariate analysis
(general linear model) was conducted, with type of writ-
ing (essay or short story) as a fixed facto r, and level of
interest and artistic merit as covariates. Type of writing
was found to be a significant predictor, F(1, 83) ¼ 4.21,
p < .05, R
2
¼ .10. That is to say, as compared with those
who read an essay (M ¼ 3.97, SD ¼ .44), participants
who read a short story had significantly lower scores
on the NFCS (M ¼ 3.79, SD ¼ .37); t(85) ¼2.13,
p < .05. This decrease in the need for cognitive closure
was effected mainly by the decrease in the two subscales
of the NFCS, need for order, t(85) ¼2.22, p < .05
(one-tailed), and discomfort with ambiguity, t(85) ¼
1.87, p < .05 (one-tailed). Difference on other sub-
scales did not reach significance.
Neither of covariates reached significance, though
there appeared to be trends: F(1,83) ¼ 3.73, p ¼ .06 for
level of interest, and F(1,83) ¼ 2.49, p ¼ .12 for artistic
merit. Pearson’s bivariate correlation between the need
for closure and level of interest, r(85) ¼.17, p ¼ .11,
and between the need for closure and artistic merit
was r(85) ¼ .08, p ¼ .47.
The means and standard deviations for ART were
M ¼ 4.59, SD ¼ 4.40 for nonfiction and M ¼ 6.41,
SD ¼ 7.62 for fiction. Nonfiction and fiction scores were
significantly positively correlated, r(85) ¼ .72, p < .01,
and this confirms previous findings (Mar et al., 2006)
that people who read a lot of non-fiction also tend to
read a lot of fiction.
To test the second hypothesis, a median split was
performed such that those who scored above the median
on ART-nonfiction were classified as high nonfiction
readers, and those who scored below the median as
low nonfi ction readers. Low nonfiction readers did not
differ from high nonfiction readers in ne ed for closure
when they read an essay, but there was a significant dif-
ference when they read a short story: t(41) ¼2.21,
p < .05, such that high nonfiction readers showed lower
need for closure than low nonfiction readers.
A similar classification was made into high-fiction
readers and low fiction readers, for those scoring above
and below the median, respectively. As in the previous
analysis, although there was no significant difference
between the groups for those who read an essay, high
fiction readers (as compared with low fiction readers)
who read a short story had a lower need for closure,
152
DJIKIC, OATLEY, MOLDOVEANU
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t(41) ¼2.59, p < .05. It appears that high readers (of
both nonfiction and fiction) benefi ted from reading a
short story rather than an essay, in terms of lowering
their self-reported need for closure.
DISCUSSION
The princi pal hypothesis was supported. When com-
pared to reading an essay, reading a literary short story
led to a significant short-term decrease in participants’
self-reported need for cognitive closure. The effect did
not depend on the artistic properties of the text (some
essays were judged more artistic than some short stor-
ies), but on the genre—the type of writing—of the text
that was read: essay or short story. When one reads fic-
tional literature, one is encouraged to simulate other
minds, and is thereby released from concerns for
urgency and permanence. As was found in testing the
subscales of the NFCS, this occurred principally by
means of a decreased need for order and a decreased dis-
comfort with ambiguity.
Since only short-term decreas es on the need for clos-
ure were produced, it is reasonable to ask whether the
suspension of urgency and permanence that reduced
the need for cognitive closure ends as soon as one closes
a book and returns to an everyday life that requires
quick opinions and decision making. The next step in
the investigation of this phenomenon will be to find
how long the single-exposure effect lasts, and, if
steady-state changes can be induced, how much
exposure to literature is needed to achieve long-term
decreases. In taking this next step, it should also be
investigated whether and how far a decreased need for
closure that follows exposure to literary fiction gener-
alizes to a greater openness of mind when faced with
problems of reasoning or creativity.
From the simulation perspective, the decrease in the
need for closure may depend on the same meta-cognitive
processes that usually make opening the mind so diffi-
cult. Reading fiction often prompts one toward thinking
from a different perspective, from the point of view of
(at least one) other person. It is likely that only when
experiences of this kind accumulate to reach some criti-
cal mass would they lead to long-term changes of meta-
cognitive habits. Given the suboptimal information-
processing strategies that result from premature need
for closure, exposure to literature may offer a pedagogi-
cal tool to encourage individuals to become more likely
to open their minds.
There are two additional potential benefits of reading
fiction as a systematic way of opening minds. Experien-
tial and practice strategies with a potential to change
meta-cognitive processes, as shown by Arkes, Christen-
sen, Lai, and Blumer (1987) and Arkes, Faust, Guilmette,
and Hart (1988), involve manipulating situations in ways
that are labor and time intensive for trainers. By contrast,
literary fiction can be read in participants’ own time, and
only occasional encouragement may be needed. A second
benefit is that reading fiction can affect even individuals
with highly developed cognitive mechanisms of defense
against anxiety (Djikic, Oatley, Zoeterman, & Peterson,
2009b). The effect may occur because it does not rely
on confrontational or instructive methods. When reading
about fictional characters, one does not feel the need of
defend one’s own perspective. One can simulate the
workings of other minds without the fear of undermining
one’s own.
An additional result suggested by this experiment is
that it is the most frequent readers (of both nonfiction
and fiction) who are likely to experience the most ben-
eficial effects of exposure to literature. This is encour-
aging wi th regards to pedagogical interventions in
professions such as law, medicine, and business, in
which training demands extensive nonfiction reading,
but at the same time requires people to become insight-
ful about others and their perspectives. Although non-
fiction reading allows students to learn the subject
matter, it may not always help them in thinking about
it. A physician may have an encyclopedic knowledge
of his or her subject, but this may not prevent the phys-
ician from seizing and freezing on a diagnosis, when
additional symptoms point to a different malady
(Groopman, 2008). There is a small literature on the
influence of premature closure on decision-making in
medical diagnosis (Warner, Najarian, & Tierney,
2010), and police investigation (Ha
¨
kka
¨
nen, Ask, Keb-
bell, Alison, & Granhag, 2009). It highlights closure
effects that may be beneficially addressed through
exposure to fictional literature, which can balance prac-
titioners’ extensive content knowledge with the develop-
ment of meta-cognitive habits that favor improved
information processing, so this, in turn, may have appli-
cations in professional fields.
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 contribu-
ted 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.
OPENING THE CLOSED MIND
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154 DJIKIC, OATLEY, MOLDOVEANU
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... In this paper, we report an experiment that addresses this empirical gap by testing whether reading short literary fictions improves imaginative capacities and related qualities. This experiment constitutes a conceptual replication and extension of an investigation by Djikic and colleagues (Djikic, Oatley, & Moldoveanu, 2013). ...
... However, convergent thinking is linked with imaginative capacities to a lesser extent than divergent thinking (Thakral, Yang, Addis, & Schacter, 2021), which was not assessed in Authors' (2021) study, meaning that the potential for fiction-related benefits on divergent thinking is unknown. Furthermore, Authors (2021) investigated exposure to fiction in general, whereas previous research has suggested that reading literary fiction in particular may especially promote imaginative capacities (Djikic et al., 2013). ...
... Djikic and colleagues (Djikic et al., 2013) randomly assigned their student participants to read either a literary fictional short story or a nonfictional essay. ...
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Although philosophers have long claimed that reading fiction has the potential to improve imaginative capacities, empirical evidence on this topic is limited. We report an experiment that aims to conceptually replicate and extend previous work by Djikic and colleagues by testing whether reading literary fiction reduces the need for closure, and by testing for the first time whether it enhances openness to experience, cognitive complexity, imaginability, and divergent thinking. We also examined whether a potential fiction-based impact depends on previous exposure to print fiction or nonfiction. In a between-subjects design, N = 111 higher education students were randomly assigned to read either two literary fiction short stories or two nonfictional essays. Outcome variables were assessed after the reading assignments using a battery of questionnaire-based and behavioral indicators. The two groups of readers did not differ on any outcome measure, and results were not influenced by lifetime exposure to written fiction or nonfiction. Taken together, the current findings do not support the assumption that reading literary fiction increases imaginative capacities or related outcomes. ARTICLE HISTORY
... Specifically, it is argued that it is the words which hold the potential of powerful and active beings in themselves (Erdman, 1978). In this way, the powerful language within serious literature encourages readers away from processing in easy, heuristicallydriven, automatic ways that avoid ambiguity in order to reach quick conclusions (Djikic et al., 2013;O'Sullivan et al., 2015;Davis, 2020). Instead, literature encourages readers to hold onto what feels like emotionally salient moments of a text, also known as close reading, as opposed to information-scanning (Davis, 2013;Wolf, 2018). ...
... Additionally, these experiences of empathic embodiment created complex layers of thought together with feeling in a way that replicated the combination of affective and cognitive empathy as it is experienced within the everyday social world (Fletcher-Watson and Bird, 2020). In this way, the present study further demonstrates the advantages of serious literature as an ecologically valid tool within empathy research (Djikic et al., 2013;O'Sullivan et al., 2015;Chapple et al., 2021b). These advantages contrast to standardised ToM tests which instead seek to separate thought from feeling in an attempt to gain experimental control (Fletcher-Watson and Bird, 2020). ...
... Specifically, autistic participants demonstrated more provisional thinking that enhanced their ability to hold in mind more than one conflicting mind or situation at a time. As a result, autistic participants were often more literary thinkers, able to 'bite off more than they could chew' , as required by the literature (Djikic et al., 2013;O'Sullivan et al., 2015;Davis, 2020;Davis and Magee, 2020). For example, where non-autistic participants were only able to use their creative writing to create emotional depth for the main character, George, autistic participants were able to model multiple minds, including harder to reach perspectives such as that of Lennie. ...
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Dominant theoretical models of autism and resultant research enquiries have long centered upon an assumed autism-specific empathy deficit. Associated empirical research has largely relied upon cognitive tests that lack ecological validity and associate empathic skill with heuristic-based judgments from limited snapshots of social information. This artificial separation of thought and feeling fails to replicate the complexity of real-world empathy, and places socially tentative individuals at a relative disadvantage. The present study aimed to qualitatively explore how serious literary fiction, through its ability to simulate real-world empathic response, could therefore enable more ecologically valid insights into the comparative empathic experiences of autistic and non-autistic individuals. Eight autistic and seven non-autistic participants read Of Mice and Men for six days while completing a semi-structured reflective diary. On finishing the book, participants were asked to engage in three creative writing tasks that encouraged reflective thinking across the novel. Thematic and literary analysis of the diary reflections and writing tasks revealed three main themes (1) Distance from the Novel; (2) Mobility of Response; (3) Re-Creating Literature. Findings demonstrated the usefulness of serious literature as a research tool for comparing the empathic experiences of autistic and non-autistic individuals. Specifically, autistic individuals often showed enhanced socio-empathic understandings of the literature with no empathy deficits when compared to non-autistic participants.
... Bal & Veltkamp, 2013;Djikic et al., 2013b;Kidd & Castano, 2013), and related outcomes including moral cognition (e.g. Johnson et al., 2013;Koopman, 2015), benefits of reading fiction have been reported in other outcomes as well, for instance the need for cognitive closure (Djikic et al., 2013a), creativity (Black & Barnes, 2021), or changes in personality (Djikic et al., 2009). Across outcome variables, the majority of experimental studies have investigated the effects of reading short fictional narratives. ...
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We report a study testing the validity of the three most commonly used indicators of lifetime exposure to print fiction, namely a self-report scale, an author recognition test (ART), and book counting, in a sample of older adults (N=306; M age = 59.29 years, SD age = 7.01). Convergent validity of the self-report scale and book counting was assessed through correlations with the fiction sub-score of the ART; divergent validity of these two indicators was examined via correlations with the non-fiction sub-score of that ART. We also assessed criterion-related validity by testing the degree to which each of the three indicators predicted participants' performance in a vocabulary test. The self-report scale and book counting were significantly more positively associated with the ART fiction sub-score than the ART non-fiction sub-score. Regression analyses, controlling for gender and non-fiction exposure, revealed that the ART fiction sub-score had the highest explanatory power among all indicators under investigation for predicting vocabulary test performance. The present results suggest that only ARTs may have satisfactory levels of both construct and criterion-related validity. Recommendations for the assessment of fiction exposure and future directions are discussed.
... Opening up the possibility of change draws a path toward an end, toward closure, and as Frederic (2005) indicates in Archaeologies of the Future, this trait turns out to be an antidote against apathy and conformism. In a psychological study conducted by Maja Djikic et al. (2013), reading literary fiction was conclusively linked to an increase in an individual's capacity for overcoming cognitive closure, which hinders decision-making and encumbers critical thinking. As I explore in the following analysis, contemporary dystopias contribute to the growing conception of crises as interconnected, systemic challenges that are better tackled as a group instead of as heroic individuals. ...
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In this piece, I approach the relationship between the paradigm of imbricated crises pertaining to the second decade of the twenty-first century and its contemporaneous dystopian literature. I focus particularly on how dystopian literature forges a sense of closure that attempts to give meaning through the construction of imaginary memories of how crises came and went, or came and stayed. Dystopian tales provide the troubled reader of its time with a sense of narrative continuation and a substitute for closure. For my analysis, I draw on a corpus of literary works from around the world, which includes The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz; Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel; The Emissary, by Tawada Yōko; Severance: A Novel, by Ling Ma; China Dream, by Ma Jian; Ansibles, Profilers and Other Machines of Wonder, by Andrea Chapela; and The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
... 33). Consistent with these findings, Djikic et al. (2013) found that, compared to reading essays, reading literary texts is followed by reduced "need for closure." ...
Chapter
Studies that assess modes of reading engagement indicate that open reflection within a distinctively expressive mode of reading engagement triggers not only embodied, enactive, and affective animation of the narrated world (Caracciolo, 2014) but also shifts in text- and self-understanding (Kuiken & Douglas, 2018; Menninghaus et al., 2019). There is gradually increasing clarity about the processes by which these modes of reading engagement – and their aesthetic effects (e. g., appreciation, being moved, sublime feeling) – are related to shifts in understanding. Contrasting formulations propose that (a) readers ex- pand their sense of possible selves through engagement with fictional charac- ters’ experiences (Slater et al., 2014); (b) readers’ response to formal and narra- tive features of the text motivates exploration of alternative self-concepts (Djikic & Oatley, 2014); and (c) readers’ receptive engagement with formal and narra- tive aspects of the text affords expressive enactment of metaphoric structures that reveal or disclose a self-relevant narrative world (Kuiken & Douglas, 2018). Related studies (e. g., Tangerås, 2018) suggest that self-altering literary reading is especially likely to occur during life crises. In continuing evaluation of these models, researchers rely on experimental studies of variations in reader traits, experimental studies of moment by moment reading activities, and experimen- tal and interview studies of readers during life crises.
Chapter
Many things that we do are performed for their own sake, with little or no social feedback and produce no tangible result. Donald Olding Hebb proposed in 1949 that pleasure is derived from “growth or development of cerebral organization.” This statement is the basis of the idea of Type C motivation. There is ample evidence that exploration, novelty seeking, and challenging activities of various types are an important part of our behavioral repertoire, apart from any tangible outcome of those activities. Many common activities may involve Type C motivation in part, but there are some activities, such as puzzles, reading books, and video games, that can only be explained in terms of Type C motivation. Type C motivation probably plays an important role in much of human achievement and in the development of complex skills, such as those required for language proficiency, sports, writing, music, art, and science.KeywordsCerebral organizationForagingGrowthDevelopmentCerebral organizationNoveltyPleasureCuriosityChallengeInherent motivationIntrinsic motivationWantingLikingPleasureDesireLearningFlashbulb memoryEudaimoniaReadingPuzzlesConnectivityCreativity
Chapter
This chapter explores the influence of life stories and literature on English learners' critical thinking development by examining students' goal orientation, attitudes, and motivation to rhetoric passages with high sociolinguistic content. Specifically, this study, part of a larger project, applies a sociocultural pedagogical model to raise L2 learners' awareness of the relevance of developing their critical thinking competence to analyze reality and gain confidence in expressing their voice. As a dystopian life story, George Orwell's 1984 novel is used as critical thinking triggering strategy for first-year bilingual education baccalaureate students to achieve this goal. The study's methodical instruments included a three-dimensional analysis model, pre- and post-questionnaires, specific tasks on judgment and inference, guided interviews, rubrics, and field observations. This chapter reports on the study's qualitative findings and demonstrates the effect of literature and stories on students' engagement and awareness of their critical thinking skills.
Chapter
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Reading fiction has been associated with improved social and imaginative reasoning that could lead to improved critical thinking. This observational study investigated the relationship between fiction and nonfiction exposure, narrative transportation, and factors of critical thinking (critical thinking disposition, and epistemological orientation). Self-selecting participants ( N = 335) completed an online survey including an author recognition test and self-report scales. Fiction scores were significantly associated with higher critical thinking disposition, while nonfiction had an inverse effect correlating with lower disposition. Fiction reading was associated with decreased absolutism, and nonfiction score conversely with higher absolutism. Total and nonfiction print exposure were associated with lower multiplism, with no significant association for fiction. Total and fiction print exposure were associated with higher evaluativism, with no significant association for nonfiction. Narrative transportation mediated some of these relationships. These findings provide a basis for further research into reading fiction and nonfiction, and critical thinking.
Chapter
One major research area in the empirical study of literature pertains to the role of foregrounding (i. e., stylistic deviations and parallelism) in the reading process. The associated phenomena are arguably key to understanding what distinguishes literary reading and essential for the investigation of its impact on readers' interpretation and aesthetic appreciation. We trace the origins of the concept back to Aristotle and follow various theoretical elaborations in the works of twentieth-century literary scholars and linguists, right up to the moment when developments took an empirical turn. We will see that the original scholarly assumptions were inspiration for an impressive amount of qualitative (e. g., think-aloud studies and in-depth interviews) and quantitative (e. g., experiments, neurocognitive studies) research. The results have deepened our insights about the way textual foregrounding affects readers' experiences and how these experiences may be associated with carry-over effects (e. g., critical thinking abilities). Besides the state of the art in all the relevant lines of research , we offer readers a comprehensive overview of the many remaining problems that require further (perhaps interdisciplinary) study.
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Two experiments were executed to study how persons test hypotheses about others. Experiment 1 demonstrated that subjects can be sensitive to contextually presented alternatives to a given hypothesis. Subjects who addressed the hypotheses that an interviewee was an architect or a painter selected different information than did those who addressed the hypotheses that the interviewee was an architect or a computer engineer. In both cases, subjects' informational choices appeared guided by the principle of diagnosticity. Notably, they predominantly selected information whose diagnostic value with respect to the pertinent hypothesis-alternative pair was high rather than low. Experiment 2 demonstrated that subjects' sensitivity to a contextually mentioned alternative (architect) to a given target hypothesis (painter) may be affected by their motivational orientation. Subjects with a high need for openness (as manipulated by high fear of invalidity) and low need for closure were more likely to seek diagnostic information demarcating the hypothesis from the alternative than subjects with a high need for closure and low fear of invalidity. Thus, the present research highlights the subjective determinants of information diagnosticity: It suggests that diagnosticity may depend on the cognitive context of hypothesis testing (the type of alternatives juxtaposed to a target hypothesis), and on individuals' epistemic motivations, which may affect their sensitivity to contextually suggested hypotheses. Two experiments were executed to study how persons test hypotheses about others. Experiment 1 demonstrated that subjects can be sensitive to contextually presented alternatives to a given hypothesis. Subjects who addressed the hypotheses that an interviewee was an architect or a painter selected different information than did those who addressed the hypotheses that the interviewee was an architect or a computer engineer. In both cases, subjects' informational choices appeared guided by the principle of diagnosticity. Notably, they predominantly selected information whose diagnostic value with respect to the pertinent hypothesis-alternative pair was high rather than low. Experiment 2 demonstrated that subjects' sensitivity to a contextually mentioned alternative (architect) to a given target hypothesis (painter) may be affected by their motivational orientation. Subjects with a high need for openness (as manipulated by high fear of invalidity) and low need for closure were more likely to seek diagnostic information demarcating the hypothesis from the alternative than subjects with a high need for closure and low fear of invalidity. Thus, the present research highlights the subjective determinants of information diagnosticity: It suggests that diagnosticity may depend on the cognitive context of hypothesis testing (the type of alternatives juxtaposed to a target hypothesis), and on individuals' epistemic motivations, which may affect their sensitivity to contextually suggested hypotheses.
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We tested whether the genre of a literary text (essay as compared with short story) or its artistic merit would be primarily responsible for the variability in the self-perceived personality traits that individuals experience when they read. One hundred participants were randomly assigned to read either one of eight essays or one of eight short stories, matched for length, reading difficulty, and interest. The Big-Five personality traits were measured before and after reading. Genre did not affect variability in personality. Rather, participants who judged the text they read to be more artistic reported a greater variability in their personality trait profile after reading, independently of whether the text was an essay or a short story. Artistic merit appears to be associated with literature’s transformative effects through the instability in the self-perceived experience of the reader’s personality.
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Phonological processing skills have been shown to account for some, but not all, of the variance in the word recognition ability of both children and adults. In two studies with adult subjects in the United States, the authors investigated whether orthographic processing ability--the ability to form, store, and access orthographic representations--can account for some of the additional variance in word recognition and spelling skill. A new measure of individual differences in exposure to print--the Author Recognition Test--was developed and validated in the two studies. This measure was designed to be relatively free of a confound that has plagued most print exposure indicators used in studies of adults: the tendency of respondents to give socially desirable answers. The Author Recognition Test was shown to be a remarkably robust and independent predictor of word processing ability. In Study 2, subjects' performance on this measure was shown to predict variance in orthographic processing independent of phonological factors. The results of the two studies were supportive of the idea that there are individual differences in reading and spelling caused by variation in orthographic processing skills. Moreover, these orthographic processing skills appear to be linked to print exposure, and thus to be environmentally mediated, rather than being simply indirect products of differences in phonological processing ability. Both studies demonstrate the potential usefulness of the Author Recognition Test as an indicator of print exposure in research on the cognitive consequences of literacy. /// [French] Les recherches antérieures ont montré que certaines habiletés de traitement phonologique comptent pour une partie de la variance dans la reconnaissance de mots aussi bien par les adultes que par les enfants. Deux expériences ont été menées auprès d'adultes américains pour voir dans quelle mesure le traitement orthographique peut compter pour une partie de variance supplémentaire dans la reconnaissance de mots et l'épellation. Une nouvelle mesure du degré d'exposition à l'écrit a été développée et validée dans les deux expériences: Le test de reconnaissance d'auteurs (ART). Cette mesure a été développée pour contourner le problème posé par les méthodes habituellement utilisées dans les recherches auprès d'adultes, qui font qu'ils ont tendance à répondre en conformité avec ce qu'ils jugent socialement acceptable. Le test de reconnaissance d'auteurs s'est révélé un prédicteur extrêmement robuste et indépendant de l'habileté à traiter des mots. Dans la seconde expérience, les résultats des sujets à cette mesure ont permis de prédire une partie importante de la variance pour le traitement orthographique indépendamment des facteurs phonologiques. Les résultats aux deux expériences appuient l'idée qu'une partie des différences individuelles en lecture et en épellation est due aux habiletés de traitement orthographique. De plus, ces habiletés de traitement orthographique apparaissent liées au degré d'exposition à l'écrit ce qui permet de poser comme hypothèse que l'acquisition de ces habiletés est conditionnée par l'environnement et n'est pas uniquement le produit des différences individuelles dans les habiletés de traitement phonologique. Les deux expériences ont confirmé l'utilité du test de reconnaissance d'auteurs comme mesure du degré d'exposition à l'écrit dans les recherches sur les conséquences cognitives de la littéracie. /// [Spanish] Las habilidades de procesamiento fonológico han explicado algunas, pero no todas, las variaciones en la habilidad para reconocer palabras tanto en niños como en adultos. En dos experimentos con sujetos adultos en los Estados Unidos, los autores investigaron si la habilidad de procesamiento ortográfico puede explicar la varianza adicional en el reconocimiento de palabras y su habilidad ortográfica. Una nueva medida de diferencias individuales en la exposición a materiales impresos--La prueba de reconocimiento de autores (ART)--fue desarrollada y validada en dos experimentos. Esta medida fue diseñada para estar relativamente libre de un problema que han sufrido la mayoría de los indicadores de exposición a materiales impresos que se usan en estudios de adultos--la tendencia de los sujetos a dar respuestas que ellos piensan son las que se esperan de ellos; las socialmente deseables. La prueba de reconocimiento de autores demostró ser un predictor notablemente robusto e independiente para predecir la habilidad de procesar palabras. En el Experimento 2, el desempeño de los sujetos en esta medida demostró que podía predecir la variabilidad en el procesamiento ortográfico, de manera independiente de los factores fonológicos. Los resultados de dos experimentos apoyan la idea de que hay diferencias individuales en lectura y ortografía causadas por la variación en las habilidades del procesamiento ortográfico. Además, estas habilidades de procesamiento ortográfico parecen estar relacionadas con la exposición a materiales impresos, y de esta manera estar mediados ambientalmente más bien, que ser simplemente productos indirectos de diferencias en la habilidad del procesamiento fonológico. Ambos estudios demostraron la ayuda potencial que la prueba de reconocimiento de autores tiene como un indicador de exposición a materiales impresos en la investigación de las consecuencias cognitivas del alfabetismo. /// [German] In der Vergangenheit war gezeigt worden, daß die Fähigkeiten der phonologischen Verarbeitung nur für einen Teil des Unterschieds in der Fähigkeit des Worterkennens zwischen Kindern und Erwachsenen zuständig waren. In zwei Experimenten, die mit Erwachsenen in den Vereinigten Staaten durchgeführt wurden, untersuchten die Verfasser, ob die Fähigkeit der orthographischen Verarbeitung für einen Teil des weiteren Unterschieds im Worterkennen und in der Rechtschreibkenntnis verantwortlich zeichnen kann. Für das Messen individueller Unterschiede bei der Wahrnehmung gedruckter Texte wurde ein neuer Maßstab aufgestellt und in zwei Experimenten bestätigt: der Test über Erkennen des Verfassers (ART). Dieser Maßstab wurde so aufgestellt, daß er relativ frei von einem Durcheinander ist, das die meisten Studien mit Erwachsenen, in denen Anzeigen über das Wahrnehmen gedruckter Texte untersucht wurden, negativ beeinflußte: die Neigung seitens der Teilnehmer, Antworten zu geben, die sie gesellschaftlich für erwünscht heilten. Es stellte sich heraus, daß der Verfassererkennungstest eine bemerkenswert beständige und unabhängige Voraussage der Wortverarbeitungsfähigkeiten leistete. Im zweiten Experiment zeigte sich, daß die Leistungen der Teilnehmer bei diesem Maßstab Unterschiede in der orthographischen Verarbeitung, die von phonologischen Faktoren unabhängig war, voraussagte. Die Resultate beider Experimente unterstützen die Vorstellung, daß beim Lesen und Buchstabieren individuelle Unterschiede bestehen, die durch Verschiedenheiten in den Fertigkeiten der orthographischen Verarbeitung hervorgerufen werden. Zusätzlich scheinen diese Fertigkeiten in der orthographischen Verarbeitung mit einer Wahrnehmung gedruckter Texte in Verbindung zu stehen und deshalb durch die Umgebung vermittelt zu sein--und nicht etwa einfach nur Nebenprodukte der Unterschiede in der Fertigkeit der phonologischen Verarbeitung zu sein. Beide Studien bewiesen die potentielle Nützlichkeit des Verfassererkennungstests als Textwahrnehmungsmaßstab in der Forschung über kognitive Auswirkungen in der Beherrschung der Schriftsprache.
Article
A theoretical framework is outlined in which the key construct is the need for(nonspecific) cognitive closure. The need for closure is a desire for definite knowledge on some issue. It represents a dimension of stable individual differences as well as a situationally evocable state. The need for closure has widely ramifying consequences for social-cognitive phenomena at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and group levels of analysis. Those consequences derive from 2 general tendencies, those of urgency and permanence. The urgency tendency represents an individual's inclination to attain closure as soon as possible, and the permanence tendency represents an individual's inclination to maintain it for as long as possible. Empirical evidence for present theory attests to diverse need for closure effects on fundamental social psychological phenomena, including impression formation, stereotyping, attribution, persuasion, group decision making, and language use in intergroup contexts.
Article
SOLITARY INDIVIDUALS waiting for flights in an airport departure lounge were classified as either readers (engaged in recreational reading for 10 consecutive minutes) or nonreaders by an experimenter unobtrusively observing their behavior. Of the 217 subjects, 111 were classified as readers and 106 as nonreaders. Individuals classified as readers scored higher on several recognition checklist measures of print exposure that can be administered in a matter of minutes. Individuals judged to be high in print exposure-on the basis of either an inference from their airport behavior or an inference from their responses on the checklist measures-displayed more extensive vocabularies and cultural knowledge than did individuals low in print exposure. Although engagement in literacy activities was correlated with both age and education, exposure to print was a substantial predictor of vocabulary and cultural knowledge even after differences in age and education were controlled. The results, taken in conjunction with the outcomes of several related studies, suggest a more prominent role for exposure to print in theories of individual differences in cognitive development.
Chapter
The authors look closely at the normative question, following Stanovich's detailed consideration of it in a book (Stanovich, 1999), which was both greatly influenced by Jonathan's thinking, as they relate in their chapter, and has greatly influenced Jonathan's, as he has often acknowledged. They consider belief bias and heuristics from a dual-process point of view and ground debates about them firmly in data on individual differences, leading to a reconsideration of the nature of the processes, especially System 2. The great rationality debate, a framework for individual differences in heuristics and biases tasks, cognitive decoupling in heuristics and biases tasks, dual-process models and the reflective mind, individual differences in the tripartite structure and an integrative summary are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)(create)