Science fiction triggers 'poorer reading', study finds

M. Robert Gibson

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A three year old article

So when readers who are biased against SF read the word ‘airlock’, their negative assumptions kick in – ‘Oh, it’s that kind of story’ – and they begin reading poorly. So, no, SF doesn’t really make you stupid. It’s more that if you’re stupid enough to be biased against SF you will read SF stupidly.
 

BAYLOR

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I have seen examples of Bias againts science fiction . One day I was in the local bookstore and the was Isle a mother her you child, The kid went to plicj a science fiction book, off the shelf and the mother told the kid to put it back and the book was based on fake science.
 

sule

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When people pick on science fiction and fantasy I'm caught between anger that they would so quickly dismiss out of hand something they clearly haven't taken the time to understand and disappointment because they don't know what they're missing.
 

Ambrose

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Unfortunately, nowadays in the UK, and maybe in the US, much store is placed on published research, and particularly if is the result of a grant for it.
 

BAYLOR

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When people pick on science fiction and fantasy I'm caught between anger that they would so quickly dismiss out of hand something they clearly haven't taken the time to understand and disappointment because they don't know what they're missing.
Another time I was in the book store in the science fiction section . Two teenage kids asked me if could suggest book to them which I did . The mother who was standing nearby started to berate the kids . " Pick something else, I don't want you two reading that crap science fiction" I looked at her and I said "Madam , your kids are reading books , and in this day age that's a good thing and you shouldn't be discouraging that " The woman looked at me as said' You read this science fiction stuff ?" " Yes madam , I do and, had I never done so, I never would never have learned to read other things and would likely have never gone on the college " At that point she relented and let her kids take the book I suggested.

Another time I was chatting with a gentleman the science fiction book section and suddenly this jackass out the blue walks up to us and says"Oh any idiot can write science fiction and fantasy " We both smiled at him and he just walked away from us.
 
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Robert Zwilling

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These tests seem full of flaws or I am missing a lot of stuff here. Plus the wording is terrible, does "150 participants who were given a text of 1,000 words to read" mean they were given 2 texts, one scifi, and the other ordinary drama or just 1 text. I am curious as to know who these 150 readers were? Were these people taking classical fictional literature classes or people taking anything but classical fictional literature? Or picked by random? Would anybody be surprised if 150 people who avidly read science fiction were to read the narrative realism piece of text and overwhelmingly find it boring?

This seems harmless enough until the search engines pick it up. "Readers of the science fiction story" got shortened to "science fiction readers" and while I don't know who made the switch, they don't mean the same thing to me. It is true only in the context of that one article and I think you might have to read it twice to realize that science fictions does not refer to anyone reading science fiction. In the search engine results it will show up as the full sentence: "Science fiction readers scored lower in comprehension, generally, and in the subcategories of theory of mind, world, and plot.”

This could be nit picking but is it really science fiction when all you do is replace a few simple words to change the setting? First it was written from a feet on the ground point of view, then supposedly switched to one of hurtling through space. Is that just hack writing? Does a crude attempt to change the wording get noticed by the readers? When a writer is practicing formula writing because they know the formula to be successful don't they change a lot more than just a few words for each type of story to make the writing successful?

The guy running the survey wants to run more surveys on more genres because he wonders if subjects that readers are reading can have an impact on their attention span and comprehension of what they are reading. It has been my understanding that when people are biased about something they are less likely to want to know everything about the subject and more likely to form opinions based on partial or even wholly fictional understandings of whatever they are biased against. A better study would be how does a person's bias for one subject interfere with a person's ability to carry out competent work in that subject, or better yet, in unrelated subjects.
 

tinkerdan

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This has been addressed here previously; however I haven't found the thread yet.
edit:
found it
 

Foxbat

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These ‘academics’ obviously couldn’t find anything worhwhile to spend their grant money on.
 

Justin Swanton

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I don't have a problem either with the test or its results. But notice what the test is testing:

"the feelings of characters"

"story in terms of plot and character relationships"

"Science fiction readers also reported exerting greater effort to understand the world of the story, but less effort to understand the minds of the characters. Science fiction readers scored lower in comprehension, generally, and in the subcategories of theory of mind, world, and plot."

This all misses the point of science fiction. A literary novel necessarily focusses on realism: real people in the real world, and hence readers expect it to be all about characters, plot nuances, and subtle and complete worldbuilding. An SF novel is something different: it focusses on philosophical ideas, big concepts about the meaning of life, destiny of humanity, possibility and consequences of AI (which leads to the nature of intelligence and identity) and so on. The SF world of airlocks and antigravity precisely pulls you out of a realistic setting. You're not examining the nuances of human behaviour; you're thinking about the implications of being immortal, or the end of the world or the discovery of FTL or some other massive change to the human experience. SF is like an impressionist painter who spreads out his concepts in broad strokes. Nuances in human psychology are fine but IMHO not necessary.
 

paranoid marvin

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Just picking up a book and reading in this day and age is a massive plus point. As far as I'm concerned reading is all about enjoyment; if you enjoy a love story, great; if you love a sci-fi story or a literary classic then great also.

If you don't like sci-fi then reading a book involving anti-gravity or airlocks might put you off. If I was reading a book with lots of love and romance in it then that might put me off, because that's not the sort of book I like. If you don't like books about war then you may not appreciate fighting references etc etc.

Maybe it's only the stuff that gets highlighted in the press, but for me many academic studies seem to be all about stating the obvious. I guess if you do that, then you can't fail to prove your hypothesis.
 

soulsinging

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Another time I was in the book store in the science fiction section . Two teenage kids asked me if could suggest book to them which I did . The mother who was standing nearby started to berate the kids . " Pick something else, I don't want you two reading that crap science fiction" I looked at her and I said "Madam , your kids are reading books , and in this day age that's a good thing and you shouldn't be discouraging that " The woman looked at me as said' You read this science fiction stuff ?" " Yes madam , I do and, had I never done so, I never would never have learned to read other things and would likely have never gone on the college " At that point she relented and let her kids take the book I suggested.
But what was the suggested book??
 

mosaix

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I don't have a problem either with the test or its results. But notice what the test is testing:

"the feelings of characters"

"story in terms of plot and character relationships"

"Science fiction readers also reported exerting greater effort to understand the world of the story, but less effort to understand the minds of the characters. Science fiction readers scored lower in comprehension, generally, and in the subcategories of theory of mind, world, and plot."

This all misses the point of science fiction. A literary novel necessarily focusses on realism: real people in the real world, and hence readers expect it to be all about characters, plot nuances, and subtle and complete worldbuilding. An SF novel is something different: it focusses on philosophical ideas, big concepts about the meaning of life, destiny of humanity, possibility and consequences of AI (which leads to the nature of intelligence and identity) and so on. The SF world of airlocks and antigravity precisely pulls you out of a realistic setting. You're not examining the nuances of human behaviour; you're thinking about the implications of being immortal, or the end of the world or the discovery of FTL or some other massive change to the human experience. SF is like an impressionist painter who spreads out his concepts in broad strokes. Nuances in human psychology are fine but IMHO not necessary.
Excellent post.
 

hitmouse

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Didnt we discuss this 2 or 3 years ago? Alison Flood’s Guardian piece is quite good. She writes some interesting stuff on Sf & F. However, then original academic paper is poor.
 

tinkerdan

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Didnt we discuss this 2 or 3 years ago? Alison Flood’s Guardian piece is quite good. She writes some interesting stuff on Sf & F. However, then original academic paper is poor.
ref: @tinkerdan 's previous post
if there are more times we've discussed this; by all means, please post a link.

This is why in the previous iteration of the forum software the similar threads that were shown at the bottom were so helpful.
 

Randy M.

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Unfortunately, nowadays in the UK, and maybe in the US, much store is placed on published research, and particularly if is the result of a grant for it.
The only thing I think of that's been worse recently is the exact opposite, ignoring people who have taken the time and effort to study something because they've taken the time and effort to study the thing and didn't find the answer you wanted to hear.

So, to sum up, in general, humans are contrarian and when accused of it will tell you they are not.

Randy M.
 
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