What was less expected was how much of a difference the type of reading made: Fiction readers were significantly more likely to have a larger vocabulary.
The study noted:
“That fiction reading would increase vocabulary size more than just non-fiction was one of our hypotheses–it makes sense, after all, considering that fiction tends to use a greater variety of words than non-fiction does. However, we hadn’t expected its effect to be this prominent.”
Creativity: Fictions allows for uncertainty (where creativity thrives!)
In the movies, we often long for a happy ending. Have you noticed that fiction can be much more ambiguous?
That’s exactly what makes it the perfect environment for creativity.
A study published in Creativity Research Journal asked students to read either a short fictional story or a non-fiction essay and then measured their emotional need for certainty and stability.
Researchers discovered that the fiction readers had less need for “cognitive closure” than those who read non-fiction, and added:
“These findings suggest that reading fictional literature could lead to better procedures of processing information generally, including those of creativity.”
Pleasure: Reading makes you happier
All the above factors are great. But the very biggest reason I try to read every single day? I love it.
It makes me happy, and I’m not alone – a survey of 1,500 adult readers in the UK found that 76% of them said reading improves their life and helps to make them feel good.
Other findings of the survey are that those who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.
It’s fascinating to me to think about how much has changed in American life and media over the years in the chart published by Pew.
Somehow reading for pleasure has remained relatively stable – even with the advent of the Internet, smart phones and so many more attention-zapping inventions.
The most straightforward and simplest way of acquiring these skills is reading books.
Though there are some other ways to acquire these skills as well, the most important one is your exposure to the world. And reading books does give us this exposure and we can learn a lot of things about the world.
But when it comes to reading books, there is a general assumption that nonfiction plays a better role in skill-development than fiction.
It is also said that fiction is all about escapism and is just a waste of someone’s precious time.
It takes us in an imaginary world that has nothing to do with the real world. Fiction can be a good time pass but it doesn’t help us to develop and understand the world.
Summary. When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book. Research,…more
Some of the most valuable skills that managers look for in employees are often difficult to define, let alone evaluate or quantify: self-discipline, self-awareness, creative problem-solving, empathy, learning agility, adaptiveness, flexibility, positivity, rational judgment, generosity, and kindness, among others.
How can you tell if your future employees have these skills? And if your current team is lacking them, how do you teach them?
Recent research in neuroscience suggests that you might look to the library for solutions; reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking.
When we read, we hone and strengthen several different cognitive muscles, so to speak, that are the root of the EQ. In other words, the act of reading is the very activity—if done right—that can develop the qualities, traits, and characteristics of those employees that organizations hope to attract and retain.
High-level business leaders have long touted the virtues of reading. Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, spends most of his day reading and recommends reading 500 pages a day.
Entrepreneur Mark Cuban says he reads more than three hours a day. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, says he learned to build rockets by reading books.
But business visionaries who extol the virtues of reading almost always recommend nonfiction. Buffet recommended 19 books in 2019; not one of the titles is fiction.
Of the 94 books Bill Gates recommended over a seven-year period, only nine of them are fiction.
When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book.
Research, however, suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction.
For example, reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations.
Reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for collecting knowledge, it does little to develop EQ, a far more elusive goal.
How Books Shape Employee Experiences
One reason fiction works so well in the workplace is that characters, plots, and settings in foreign locales help anchor difficult discussions.
The narrative allows participants to work through sensitive and nuanced issues in an open and honest manner.
For example, Nancy Kidder, a facilitator with the nonprofit organization [email protected], recalled a workplace discussion about Chinua Achebe’s short story, “Dead Man’s Path.”
In the story, a Nigerian headmaster named Michael Obi fails miserably when he attempts to modernize a rural school.
When discussing the story, a team leader Kidder was working with noted that after participating in the discussion along with his team, they had a new language for discussing their work: “I drove execution in this way,” said one of the team members, “but I don’t want to be a Michael Obi here.”
Authentic sharing often means just putting folks together to discuss engaging texts.
Joseph Badaracco, Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard, assigns Achebe’s works, along with other titles, like Sophocles’ Antigone, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Joseph Conrad’s short story “The Secret Sharer,” about a young and inexperienced ship captain who must make an important decision.
Badaracco told HBR IdeaCast in 2013 that fiction provides an opportunity to complicate standard good versus evil tropes.
Good literature presents characters with competing and often equally valid viewpoints.
Business books, by their very nature, boil down issues until they are binary: this is right and that is not.
In contrast, literature allows Badaracco’s students to see, for example, Creon’s allegiance to state and Antigone’s commitment to family and honor as equally valid positions—that cannot be easily rectified.
Future business leaders won’t encounter the exact scenarios they read about, but they will be able to use an expanded ability to understand and respond to multiple competing viewpoints.