The Surreal Makes You Smarter


Allison Flood at the Guardian has dug up an article from  the journal Psychological Science showing that reading surrealism may actually make people smarter.

In the study, some subjects were given Kafka’s “A Country Doctor,” and others were given a rewrite of that story that “made more sense.” Those who read Kafka did better in the test researchers gave afterwards, a test that asked people to find patterns in strings of letters.

Researcher Travis Proulx said, “People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings – clearly they were motivated to find structure. … But what’s more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story.” Why, you ask?

“Proulx said that the thinking behind the research was that when we are exposed to something which “fundamentally does not make sense”, our brains will respond by “looking for some other kind of structure” within our environment. A second test got the same results by making people feel alienated about themselves as they considered how their past actions were often contradictory.”

I’m not entirely sure why, but for some reason, this makes me feel much better about the way my mind works. Thanks, researchers!

Seth Fischer's writing has appeared in Best Sex Writing 2013, Buzzfeed, PankGuernica, Lunch Ticket, Gertrude, and elsewhere. His Rumpus piece "Notes from a Unicorn" was listed as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2013. He will be a 2014 Lambda Literary Emerging Voicing Fellow and was a 2013 Jentel Arts Residency Program Fellow. He also teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles and Writing Workshops Los Angeles. Find more writing of his writing at, or reach him @sethfischer. More from this author →