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Fiction and choices

"Organisms should have an appetite for obtaining accurate information,  and the distinction between true information and false information should be important in determining whether the information is absorbed or disregarded. This "appetite for the true" model spectacularly fails to predict large components of the human appetite for information. When given a choice, most individuals prefer to read novels over textbooks, and prefer films depicting fictional events over documentaries. That is, they remain intensely interested in communications that are explicitly marked as false. The familiarity of this phenomenon hides its fundamental strangeness."

This is excerpted from Steven Johnson's Farsighted, which is the book I'm currently reading.

I've written before about the power of fiction on how it helps me learn better and faster by experiencing full lives and emotions of the characters in the fictional world rather than have those experiences and emotions myself in real life.

Steven Johnson, in the book, goes into research done on how the ability to engage in simulation of future scenarios based on the actions that we take today are vitally important in how we make decisions and arguably, the reason why we as a species first learnt to create fictions in the first place.

It is much easier and efficient to learn the tips and tricks of life through stories than to have to experience them ourselves.

Of course, this isn't true about all fiction. Crime thrillers and murder mysteries that follow the same plot lines hardly give us anything to learn from and act merely as entertainment. However, literary fiction that delves deep into the characteristics and mannerisms of the people it portrays are a wealthy source of learning. 

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