Reading literary fiction is associated with a more complex worldview


What are the effects of reading fiction? We propose that literary fiction alters views of the world through its presentation of difference - different minds, different contexts, and different situations - grounding a belief that the social world is complex. Across four studies, two nationally-representative and one preregistered (total n = 5,176), we find that the reading of literary fiction in early life is associated with a more complex worldview in Americans: increased attributional complexity, increased psychological richness, decreased belief that contemporary inequalities are legitimate, and decreased belief that people are essentially only one way. By contrast, early-life reading of narrative fiction that presents more standardized plots and characters, such as romance novels, predict holding a less complex worldview.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin